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August 3, 2012 / quicklychat

Why auto-answer video calls?

If you’ve ever worked remotely while the rest of your team is in the same place, you know that one of the biggest problems is that you’re out of touch on the day-to-day goings-on at work.

The kind of conversations you have at the office are very different from the kinds you have over the phone or a traditional video call. They’re much quicker (often 15-30 seconds). And sometimes they’re even zero seconds, if someone looks at you and decides it’s not a good time to talk. People use lots of physical cues to determine when it’s a good time to talk. And when someone walks up to you and decides whether you’re busy, that doesn’t require you to do anything. If you’re busy, you can just keep working while your coworker decides whether you look too busy to talk.

When your phone rings, though, you’re forced to act. A ringing phone is specifically designed to take your attention away from whatever you’re doing. Even if you’re too busy to talk, you still have to actively decide to reject the call. And that decision takes you away from whatever you’re doing. Your coworkers don’t want to interrupt you when they don’t know whether you’re busy, which is a big reason why you have more conversations when you’re in the office than when you’re a phone call away.

Traditionally, video chat has been modeled on phone calls. When someone wants to talk to you, your computer starts ringing, and you get a pop-up in the middle of your screen asking whether you want to accept or reject the conversation. You can’t even finish the word you’re typing until you decide how to handle the call. Which is a big part of the reason most people schedule video chats well in advance.

QuicklyChat, on the other hand, is modeled on the kind of interaction you have in your office. In the office, when a coworker walks up to your desk, you can see her in your peripheral vision. When someone QuicklyChats you, she appears in the corner of your screen. In the office, she can look at you and judge whether you look busy. On QuicklyChat, she can do the same. And, perhaps most importantly, if you’re available to talk, you can spend a few seconds getting to a good stopping point in your work, while if it’s not a good time, your coworker can figure that out just by looking at you. (SmartStatus should help with this, too.) That means you can finish your current thought or task before devoting mindshare to how to handle a conversation request.

Yes, this means that your coworkers can see you any time they want. Bosses could spend all day staring at their employees. But the same is true at an office. The reality is, people have better things to do at work than spend time staring at their coworkers. And QuicklyChat only allows two-way video connections, so if someone can see you, you can see them, too.

Auto-answering video calls may seem a little odd at first, but we’ve found that most people get used to it after a few conversations. Give it a try for yourself, and see how you like it.

August 2, 2012 / quicklychat

Multi-user video walkie talkie and more

We’re happy to announce the release of QuicklyChat v. 0.7!  In our quest to make communicating with your coworkers as frictionless as possible, we’ve added a couple of new features to our earlier push-to-talk video walkie talkie.

First we’ve added multi-user chat. In the office, as two people have a discussion, they often realize that input from a third coworker would be invaluable. If you’re talking on QuicklyChat, you can easily check your coworker’s SmartStatus, and bring her into the conversation if she’s available. Just double-click her name on your buddy list. Impromptu meetings are routine in the office, and at QuicklyChat, we believe they should be routine in the virtual office, as well.

Second, we’ve added hot keys. When you’re at your desk and want to talk to the person sitting next to you, often times you don’t even look up from your computer. If you have a question about particular clause in a paragraph, a calculation in a spreadsheet, or a snippet of code, you might just say something like, “Hey, Sam, what’s up with line 117?” without ever taking your eyes off the section you’re focused on. In the virtual office, you should also be able to talk to someone without looking up from what you’re doing, so we’ve added hot keys: if you’ve already talked to someone, you can just press ctrl-shift-1 to start chatting with that person again. Also, when you’re in a chat, ctrl-shift-1 will exit the chat.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve also improved our video quality, connection speed, and ease of use.  Try it out, or learn more about QuicklyChat.  And be sure to let us know what you think.

July 28, 2012 / quicklychat

Always Busy

“I’m never not busy at work.”

“There’s never a good time for someone to interrupt me.”

“Interruptions just keep me from getting any work done. I can only get work done once everyone else goes home.”

We hear that a lot. And it’s true. If you’re working seriously, you’re never actually sitting at your desk twiddling your thumbs, playing games, or checking Facebook.

But communicating with your coworkers is an essential element of any modern workplace. Like it or not, people need to talk to you, and if you’re busy all day, that means interrupting you. And odds are, the more interruptions you face over the course of your workday, the more important they are to your job.

Some people avoid interruptions by scheduling meetings or phone calls, but that doesn’t really solve the problem. An interruption might cause you to lose a few minutes of productivity as you deal with changing context, but a scheduled event definitely will.  Meetings are a huge drain on productivity.

Over the course of your day, there might never be a good time to be interrupted. But in any given hour, there are bad times to be interrupted, and there are terrible times to be interrupted. Your coworkers need to talk to you, and if there’s not a good time, we want to make sure your conversations happen at a bad time, rather than a terrible time. That’s the idea behind QuicklyChat’s SmartStatus feature. It’s still pretty rudimentary at this point, but as it learns how people work, it will get better at detecting what’s a good time to talk.