The Virtual Meeting Coach

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Archive for August, 2009

Why You Might Consider Holding Out for an Asus Eee PC Touchscreen Netbook, Models T91 or T100H – And Paying More Than $500 (Part 3 of 3)

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

bigstockphoto_Watching_2259422 (Medium)

It was disappointing on this netbook shopping trip not to be able to try out either of the Asus Eee PC Touchscreen tablet-style netbooks I’ve been reading about since January, 2009 (the 8.9″ Asus Eee PC T91 and the 10″ Asus Eee PC T100H).

I’m such a fan of tablets and touchscreens, particularly for seniors and aging baby boomers. But these Asus models were simply not available for me to test. You can watch a detailed video about the features available on the model T91 here.

For the last three years, I’ve used an IBM ThinkPad Tablet for mobile computing. Not that it performs well, because it doesn’t. It’s the slowest and most frustrating laptop I’ve ever used! But, I’ve gotten really spoiled using a stylus to navigate on screen. And I like being able to make handwritten notes and draw on my photos and slides using the stylus instead of a clunky mouse.

So , from the first moment I saw the interface Asus offers on the new touchscreen netbooks, I wanted one. Even if it meant having to pay a little more and even if I have to wait a bit. Here’s a vid that shows how Asus imagines users might work with the currently available T91 and the upcoming T100H Touchscreen netbooks:

What’s not to love about that interface? Especially if you’ve gotten to a stage of life when you’d rather point than type or mouse?  If you enjoy new things that shake up your thinking – and then make things easier – this interface is downright exciting!

It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. But being able to use my fingers instead of a stylus or a mouse really appeals to my increasingly cramped mousing hand and tender typing fingers. I know I’ll never be able to escape typing altogether – and I’ll probably want some kind of cordless mouse sometimes – but the idea of being able to point and press – instead of point and click with a mouse – makes my mouth water…

And it’s not because I’m beginning to drool… quite yet ;-)

It could be another 6-9 months before the bigger 10″ Asus Eee PC T100H is available in the US. So if you’re ready to launch into the cloud now, and you want a touchscreen interface, you’ll be ordering the smaller Asus T91 model with the 8.9″ screen now. It’s going to run you about $499.

4 Netbooks That Make Sense for Seniors And ABBs Seeking An Easy, Cheap Route to Cloud Computing (Part 2 of 3)

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

MicrosoftNetbookWin7

Microsoft VP Steve Sinofsky Shows Windows 7 on a Netbook

For me to be comfortable recommending a netbook to seniors or other ABBS (aging Baby Boomers not yet comfortable calling themselves “seniors”) a couple of features are mandatory that might not be so important to younger people. Of course, some netbook features remain negotiable, depending on how much people want to spend. But IMHO the following five things are NOT OPTIONAL for seniors:

  1. 8″ or larger screen – the bigger the better, with high resolution capability
  2. a close to full-sized keyboard with raised keys and close to standard spacing between the keys, the spacebar and the touchpad
  3. a bright 1.3 megapixel or better webcamera with good color fidelity
  4. at least one on-board microphone that captures human voices well, so you don’t HAVE TO plug in a separate microphone
  5. on-board speakers capable of delivering strong volume, so you don’t HAVE TO plug in remote speakers

Why these things are not optional for seniors seems obvious to me. But talking to salesmen in electronics stores, I discovered that they weren’t necessarily top-of-mind to them.

More than other groups, seniors may have eyes, ears, and fingers that may not always work as well as they used to. These don’t have to be handicapping conditions to be annoying. And devices that make things harder will only prevent seniors from reaping the benefits netbooks have to offer.

To enjoy using netbooks, seniors need keys that have a solid but easy touch and are as large and well spaced as possible. Keyboards that are 92% of standard size, or larger, will work a lot better for seniors than tighter keyboards. The same goes for display screens. All the convenience of having an inexpensive, small, light-weight, mobile device will be wasted on seniors if the display screen is too small or not bright enough to see without struggling.

Webcam fidelity and brightness matter a lot for this group, too. And, since regular mobile communication will be one of the most important tasks for seniors using netbooks, the onboard microphone and speakers must be of good quality and offer ample volume. The last thing senior users need is to have to hunt for an external microphone, earphones and/or external speakers just to make a Skype call or to participate in other kinds of virtual meeting with family or online learning groups.

MY PERSONAL FAVES

I spent one whole day in San Francisco, going from one electronics store to another, testing every netbook I could put my hands on. (For this trip, I skipped the cheap laptops, although there are several with great promise.)  I found three netbooks I like a lot – using my criteria above – and one I see as a marginal option. Because price is another serious issue for seniors and ABBs on fixed or dwindling incomes, I restricted my search to basic models available now for under $500.

Top 3:

1. Toshiba Atom NB 205/N311. Windows XP. Island-style keyboard. 6-cell battery (3 cell is standard). 10.1″ display. Adequate camera and sound. Comes in white, pink, blue, brown. $398. Link to full stats at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Toshiba-NB205-N311-10-1-Inch-Frost-Netbook/dp/B002BDUATU. Comes standard with 1GB RAM.

2. Acer Aspire One Z250. Comes loaded with VISTA (free and easy upgrade to Windows 7 later). 11.6″ display. 2GB RAM. 6-cell battery. Nice camera, speakers, and microphone. The one I tested was royal blue. $378. Link to full stats at Walmart.com: http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=12024696#Specifications

3. Lenovo S10-2-G “Ideapad”. Windows XP. 10.2″ screen. Comes either with 1GB ($349) or 2GB RAM ($364). 3-cell battery. Nice camera quality and excellent speaker. Link to full stats at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Lenovo-Ideapad-S10-1311UW-10-2-Inch-Netbook/dp/B001TLVSZK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1251127987&sr=8-1

Marginal:

1. HP Mini 1050NR. Windows XP. 10.1″ screen. 6-cell battery. 1GM RAM. Adequate camera but onboard microphone and speakers aren’t really up to par for seniors who want to use them for free video conferencing without having to plug in peripherals. $435. Link to full stats at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002BH4NFS

Tomorrow: Why You Might Consider Holding Out for an Asus Eee PC Touchscreen Netbook, Models T91 or T100H – And Paying More Than $500 For It

Elders Everywhere – and Especially Online! Mountain Meadows Cloud Computing, Part 1 of 3

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

ManonKeyboard

Regular readers of this blog know I’m not a thirty-something. In fact, I’m almost sixty-something, an ABB (aging Baby Boomer) who’s been online teaching and learning with people around the globe since before we had graphic browsers. A hundred thousand hours of typing and mousing have earned me the arthritis showing up in my hands…

What you may not know is that this spring I moved the World Headquarters for “The Virtual Meeting Coach” to Mountain Meadows, an active senior community in beautiful Ashland, Oregon. The move was not planned, and I’m not retired. But coming to Mountain Meadows has turned out to be just as powerful a next step for me as it was for my neighbors who planned their retirement here.

I’m surrounded by beauty and some of the smartest people living in the Rogue Valley, ages 55 to 104. Some are retired. Some continue working. All of us enjoy meals in our fabulous clubhouse, the warmth and companionship of our community garden, an onsite fitness center, and the comfort and stimulation of each others’ humor, curiosity, and lifetimes of experience. I’ve been telling friends I fell through the looking glass into a world I never imagined could be so much fun.

Within the first week of my arrival, I hooked up with the computer users group, shepherded by Chris Menefee, a brilliant, generous retired librarian and active senior technology advocate. Chris had been leading the group’s exploration of social networking sites and begun working with Ning to setup a private site for Mountain Meadows residents. With a little more coaching from me from the wings, Chris launched the network within the month and residents began signing up for it by the dozens. At the same time, I started offering some informal group computer coaching for residents having trouble using their computers.

Like flowers just waiting for water, one resident after another has raised their heads – and their hands – asking for help crossing over the great “digital divide” into the 21st century. Bob Griffin, chairman of the activities and events committee of the Mountain Meadows Owners’ Association authorized my “cloud computing initiative” for interested residents. And, beginning in September, it’s our shared hope that over the coming year, we will grow a garden of elders who  feel confident and comfortable computing anytime and from anywhere they can get on a WI-FI connection.

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I’m calling the first step of this cloud computing initiative, “Up, Up and Away: Elders Everywhere and Especially Online!” Participants who don’t already have a laptop or netbook have been shopping for them this summer so they can take advantage of all the FREE Web2.0 apps available in the cloud and the clubhouse Wi-Fi internet connection I’ll be using for their classes. Championed by the intrepid online shopper, Annette Pirie, dozens of Mountain Meadows residents have been shopping – both locally and online – collecting stats, features, and best prices for netbooks and cheap laptops, and sharing their research with each other in the community Ning. I’m so proud of them all I can’t quit grinning!

I promised folks I would put my own arthritic fingers on as many netbooks as I could find during a recent business trip to San Francisco and post my research and my recommendations into the Ning before September 1st.  As I started writing up my notes this weekend, it dawned on me it made good sense to share my experiences here, too. (Duh!)

So, tomorrow’s post will feature my brief notes and recommendations for currently available netbooks that I expect will perform well for Seniors and ABBs (Aging Baby Boomers who don’t yet want to call themselves “Seniors”) who are seeking an easy, cheap route to cloud computing.

Five Ways I Use Virtual Meetings To Enhance Productivity on Projects

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

Photo by Moriza

As we keep moving through 2009, doing everything we can to make new connections and new sales in this tough economy, almost every business process is being scrutinized to see if things can be done better, faster, or cheaper.

One activity ripe for re-engineering is the the way we do project update meetings which, in their traditional form, can be expensive, time-consuming, and not always terribly productive.The mission of most project meetings is to update project participants on work status.

Even today, most project meetings are organized for speed rather than quality and seldom incorporate more than basic participation. But this is starting to change. In the last few years, dispersed teams have begun experimenting with new approaches to project meetings, including the use of live, two-way and group conversations held online in multimedia web conference rooms.

Enough practical experience has been accumulated that it’s now possible to draw some conclusions about two-way and group web conferencing. The good news is that it can lower costs, save time, improve quality, and enable more people to participate more often. Taken together, these benefits have the potential to help business managers boost productivity.

Project conferences that utilize webconferencing need careful planning and may require some technical and production support. But when properly planned and implemented, virtual meetings deliver at least five significant benefits:

1. Cost savings Without the need for air and ground travel, hotel lodging, dining, and so forth, a full-service e-meeting costs, on average, about one-fifth as much as a traditional on-site meeting.

2. Higher attendance – It is totally possible to conduct electronic meetings that generate attendance rates as high as or higher than traditional on-site meetings – in the 90-100 percent range. But this is unlikely to happen unless the web conference is supported by a well-planed invitation campaign.

To some people, a “web conference” can seem less important than an on-site meeting. To get around this bias, your invitation process needs to convey the importance of the meeting and include a series of reminder communications in the days (and/or hours) prior to the meeting.

The Coach’s Short List offers a time-tested template for setting up and managing your invitation process. While web meeting setup does need to be handled carefully, experience shows that e-meetings can have an even higher rate of participation than on-site meetings because of the convenience of attending (saving traffic time, etc.).

3. Simultaneous tracking, assessing, reinforcement of group agreements and learning - Virtual meeting rooms, especially those equipped to record meetings, have built-in support for displaying and tracking the real-time participation of all meeting partiipants. Recordings can provide valuable off-line reinforcement of agreements reached as well as documentation of new issues that may have arisen during the meeting. Visual elements including slides, whiteboard sketches, and live document edits allow you to more fully engage meeting participants and can also be shared later with team members who might not have been able to attend the meeting in real-time.

4. More time and effort on taskHolding project management meetings in various geographic locations to accommodate team members can consume a great deal of travel time and cause significant wear and tear on the whole team. Sparing travel time by making it possible for people to meet from the convenience of their own offices not only saves expenses, it focuses critical human energies on crucial project tasks instead of travel.

5. Increased understanding for non-native speakers – The opportunity to share and annotate slides, sketches, documents, spreadsheets, pictures and more in virtual conference rooms can reduce or eliminate potential misunderstanding, especially in situations where one language is dominant among some project members, but not all of them. Second-language challenges are lessened when project updates take place in virtual conference rooms equipped with voice, video sharing, whiteboards, photo display, text chat and video display functions.

Real-time access to data in multiple formats can significantly reduce delays and potentially damaging misunderstandings, especially when recordings are posted so they can be reviewed at a later time to verify what was communicated.

A COUPLE OF RECOMMENDATIONS

If you’re a regular reader, you know how much I like to use the free web conferencing tools. Recent episodes of The Virtual Meeting Coach Show, for instance, were recorded in a vYew room. In addition to vYew, two other full-featured free tools I enjoy using and recommending to clients are DimDim and WiZiQ.

DimDim was designed with business audiences in mind and has a high-end look and feel that may be just what you need for your group. WiZiQ is a full-featured virtual classroom, created to make learning with others at a distance – and in real-time – real easy. (WiZiQ is also a social-network for teachers and learners of all kinds and includes a dedicated group for project managers that you can join for free and learn wit peers!)

DimDim
WiZiQ

Both tools are full-featured online conference platforms that offer real-time access to voice conferencing (with or without webcams), video and photo sharing, live text chat, desktop sharing, and interactive whiteboards that make it easy for groups to take notes together in real-time, including annotating slide presentations. Both also offer recording capabilities and the ability to embed your recordings in websites, blogs, or moodles. DimDim offers the added benefit of direct integration with Facebook and Yahoo’s collaborative messaging app, Zimbra.

You can sign up to use the free versions of both programs with no obligation for as long as you’d like. If you decide you like one – or both – both sites offer very reasonably priced premium/pro memberships that include more features, offer more seats for participants, and the option of branding your meetings with your personal or company logo. Neither will break the bank.

You can try DimDim here.
You can try WiZiQ here.

If you’re on the hunt for ways to save money and time and boost productivity in your project meetings, I recommend you try out one or both of these platforms with your team. I’ve had great success using all three – vYew, DimDim, and WiZiQ- with a variety of groups!

In future posts, I’ll have more to say about a handful of other specialty web conferencing tools that sport fewer bells and whistles than these full-featured tools but work just great when you don’t need a Full-Meal Deal.

The Ground-Up Healthcare Revolution: Upcoming Focus on Telehealth, Telemedicine, Digital Doctor Visits, and More

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

Photo: Progress Ohio

This morning The Virtual Meeting Coach made a trek up to Medford to speak face-to-face with the legislative staff of Oregon Congressman Greg Walden. The topic? What else? Healthcare reform.

I’m one of the millions of Americans who has health insurance that doesn’t cover my care. I pay premiums every month. Big premiums. And HealthNet of Oregon denies my claims, classifying me as a “special case.” This has been going on since I moved to Oregon three years ago. What HealthNet is doing to me is nothing short of highway robbery and I resent the hell out it, not just for me but for the thousands of other Oregonians and Californians that HealthNet holds hostage because we’ve got “pre-existing conditions.” If we drop their coverage, we’ll be uninsurable. That means we pay the Mafia every month, or force our out-of-work neighbors and the gasping local hospitals to pay for our care.

At the President’s request, I thought I’d explain my predicament to my Oregon Congressman this morning on the chance that I might motivate Mr. Walden to support national healthcare reform. I drove up for a face-to-face meeting. Needless to say, he wasn’t in the office. And, his staff member – a person who told us she’s not actually part of his legislative staff – gave me and a handful of other folks a fully lukewarm welcome.

Then she spent most of our time together explaining to us in a decidedly patronizing voice why it wasn’t Greg Walden’s job to support legislation that he didn’t agree with. She listened to the needs and concerns I brought to share, but made no effort whatsoever to make even one written note although she said she’d tell the Congressman. So much for making a trip for a face-to-face meeting with my elected representative at 9:30am on a Wednesday morning.

My next best option is canceling my so-called “insurance” and forcing local tax rolls to absorb my care. Maybe my Republican Congressman would rather explain to Oregonians why they’ll have to pay new taxes – or cancel even more essential government services - instead of telling them what he’s doing to protect them from the cost of not giving people like me a way to participate in a national plan that enables us to remain responsible for ourselves.

I drove back to Ashland, shaking my head over the stone wall I ran into in my face-to-face meeting and, on the other hand, celebrating the excitement I’m feeling in recent online conversations around cost-saving telehealth, telemedicine, and digital doctoring initiatives.

It’s not part of my preventative care regimen to allow my blood to boil. So, after I return next week from a quick trip to the Bay Area, I’ll be following the path with a heart. For the next several weeks I’ll be focusing on the explosion of new medical applications for virtual meeting tools and other kinds of social media in the delivery of cost-effective healthcare and longterm care.

To wet your whistle, take a peek at this spiffy new site called Hello Health. Hello Health is a group of doctors setting up a simple way to serve their patients in web conferencing rooms while also trying to make it easy for other docs to work with them. What a concept! Based in NYC, they call themselves the “ground-up healthcare revolution.”

Welcome from Hello Health on Vimeo.

No gigantic bureaucracy. No death panels. No end of patient-doctor-relationship-scenarios. At Hello Health, all you have to do is “friend” another doc to give them access to your records.

Do you suppose this group’s got something to teach others about simple civility, collaboration, and creativity in meeting patient needs?

Do you suppose this could be generalized in some way to meet American’s political needs? Maybe they could show some of our Congressmen what it means to “friend” all their constituents. You think?


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