Updates

24 September 2012

Online Engagement Tools

I spent last week in the Ukraine as a tech trainer for TechCampKyiv. It was amazing. I was training on online engagement, both generally — and how it relates to expanding the audience for an in-person event. We started a list of desirable functionality along with tools that provide that functionality that I thought others might find useful, so here it is.

Under each heading, there is a generic search term that can be used to search for other tools that will work in your country or region, and then some examples of tools to consider. Most of these are free or at least have a free version that should work for a small event or when you’re just starting.

Feel free to share your favorites in the comments.

Growing Community

Search Term: Social Network

Streaming audio

Search Term: broadcast online radio

Note: These tools also archive the streamed audio. If you are searching for a new tool, this will most likely be an important feature to look for so that your community can listen to the audio at a later time.

Streaming Video

Search Term: streaming video

Note: These tools also archive the streamed video. If you are searching for a new tool, this will most likely be an important feature to look for so that your community can watch the video at a later time.

Screen Sharing

Search Term: screen sharing

Conference Calling

Search term: conference call

Real-time chat

Search term: text chat

  • Public chat tools
    • Twitter – specify a hashtag, eg #techcamp
  • Included in these other tools, mentioned above (best to use what they provide if you’re using the other tool so that you don’t spread your audience among too many tools):
  • If your audience is super geeky (developers mostly):

Discussions

Search Term: discussion forum, threaded comment system

  • There are plenty of open source tools that can be used for discussion forums but these require you to host the tools yourself. If you are just trying to build discussion around a topic, and you can lead that discussion with regular input, consider using blogging software such as WordPress.com or building on one of the social networks mentioned above.

Note: usually this functionality is part of a larger tool and rarely stand-alone. If using commenting functionality for discussion, look for threaded comments. This means that people can respond to individual comments and thus draw out the discussion instead of just responding to the original post.

Attaching or Linking to Documents

Search Terms: document sharing

Note: these tools allow you to provide additional documents for dissemination. Some of these tools will allow the documents to be read online, if you are self-hosting the documents, your users will have to download it to their computer to view it. Generally speaking, it is better to present information in a web-friendly format (eg on a web page, in a blog post, on Facebook, etc..) where possible. More people will then see it. Obviously, this is not always appropriate depending upon the document.

Accessibility for Disabled People

Search Terms: “508 compliance”

Note: Section 508 is part of US law that requires all US government to be available for disabled people. Accomplishing this is not so much using a specific tool, as it is knowing how to do it.

Video chat

Search terms: video chat

Note: this is an evolving field with many smaller players coming and going.

Online Ticketing

Search terms: online ticketing

Planning/Outlining

Search terms: task management, online outliner

Scheduling Meetings

Search terms: meeting scheduling

Note: This tool helps you to figure out when people are available to meet.