This newsletter's third genealogy "Skypecast" was held on August 24 and 25. This time we had attendees from all over the United States and Canada as well as from New Zealand, Argentina, Austria, and even one person who was in an oasis in the western Sahara Desert, one of the most sparsely settled areas in the world!
A Skypecast is similar to a telephone conference call but without telephones. Instead, all the attendees used headphones and microphones plugged into the sound cards on their computers. We met at a pre-designated time at a certain URL (address) on the Internet. We were all able to talk with each other. Even though we were spread across many thousands of miles, there were no toll calls involved. In fact, the required software is free and the Skypecasts are free. The only requirements to join a Skypecast are a computer, some free software and an Internet connection. At least two of this week's Skypecast attendees used Verizon wide area wireless cards for their Internet connections.
This week's call was the third in what has now become a weekly event. The conversation varied with different topics being discussed. At my request, we discussed the possibility of future online conference calls, and we also discussed subjects to be featured during future specialized Skypecasts. We came to several conclusions:
Weekly Open Discussions:
The informal "talk about whatever you want" Skypecast conference calls will be held every week at the same time as the past three: Thursday evenings at 10:00 PM Eastern time. That is the same as saying 02:00 AM Friday morning Greenwich Mean Time (GMT or nowadays called UTC). You may convert that to your local time zone at http://tinyurl.com/hqn8y. These online genealogy conversations are free and open to everyone. If you have Skype software loaded in your Macintosh, Windows, Linux, or Windows Mobile computer, you can join the online conversation at the appointed time at https://skypecasts.skype.com/skypecasts/skypecast/detailed.html?id_talk=29650
Genealogy Society Management Discussion:
We will hold a smaller Skypecast dedicated to the topic of managing genealogy societies. The subjects to be discussed will include attracting new members, fund raising, creating society web sites, and any other society management-related topic that you care to discuss. Like most other Skypecasts, there is no person in charge as group leader. Instead, this is strictly an open discussion in which the attendees can swap ideas. I will suggest that we have the Genealogy Society Management Discussion on Monday, September 11, at 10:00 PM Eastern time. You may convert that to your local time zone at http://tinyurl.com/q3xnn. At the appointed time, you may join the online conference call at https://skypecasts.skype.com/skypecasts/skypecast/detailed.html?id_talk=29651
Genealogy Research in the U.K. Discussion:
We will hold a smaller Skypecast dedicated to the topic of "Genealogy Research in the U.K." I would especially like to invite those living in England, Wales, and Scotland to join in. (We will hold a later Skypecast about Irish genealogy.) Like most other Skypecasts, there is no person in charge as group leader. Instead, this is strictly an open discussion in which the attendees can swap ideas. This online conference call will be held at what is hopefully a more convenient time for U.K. residents: Saturday, September 16 at 8:00 PM British Daylight Time. That will be at 3:00 PM Eastern U.S. Time, 2:00 PM Central, 1:00 PM Mountain and 12 noon Pacific Daylight Savings Time. That will be in the very early AM hours on Sunday morning in New Zealand and Australia. You can convert this to your local time zone at http://tinyurl.com/jp3bh.
At the appointed time, you may join the U.K. Genealogy Skypecast conference call at https://skypecasts.skype.com/skypecasts/skypecast/detailed.html?id_talk=29658
I have added the above events to this newsletter's list of Upcoming Events at http://www.trumba.com/calendars/eogns_calendar
Lessons learned in the first three weeks:
- Skypecasts work! Skypecast conversations can easily handle 25 or more people at one time.
- Headphones work better than loudspeakers.
- Wide area wireless connections from Verizon, Cingular, and others will work on Skypecasts, but with occasional interruptions or voice "choppiness." It was sometimes difficult to understand those who were connected by such EDGE or EV-DO wireless connections.
- Mute your microphone! Each "live" microphone adds just a bit of background noise to the conversation. That is not a problem when only two people are talking back and forth. However, when twenty or more people are in a conversation, the sum of all the various bits of background noise can be as loud as the voices. Luckily, the solution is simple: each attendee should keep his or her microphone muted until ready to speak. Once finished speaking, the person should go back to mute. The mute icon may not be visible in the Skype software until you widen the window a bit. It is the icon all the way to the right when you participate in a Skypecast.
- Test your hardware and software before joining a Skypecast. This is easy to do: simply make a Skype connection to "echotest," an automated voice recorder in England. You can dictate up to ten seconds of voice and then listen to your own words as they are played back to you. When making adjustments, you may connect to "echotest" time and again until you achieve the results you seek. "Echotest" is a good method of hearing what other people hear when you talk. "Echotest" is a free call.
- When you unmute your microphone and begin to speak, please identify yourself. You might say, "This is John Smith and...". This helps other participants identify who is speaking at this moment.
- You may want to keep another window open on your computer for keyboard-to-keyboard chats. This is an excellent method of sharing URLs or e-mail addresses or other text information that may be difficult to dictate by voice. To do so, open another window and go to http://www.eogn.com/chat.
Expectations for Future Skypecasts:
- As we try different times of the day, I would expect to attract more participants from the United Kingdom, Europe and Africa.
- We need more topics! I'd love to see conversations about genealogy research in Kansas or Vermont or Quebec. How about Italian genealogy or Polish or other ethnic groups? Perhaps we could have conversations about specific genealogy programs? Then again, how about a Skypecast discussing an upcoming genealogy convention? What would YOU like to discuss?
- As we experiment with different topics, I expect some will be successful while others will fail. We will never be able to identify either until we have some experience. We may try a particular topic two or three times; but, if the topic fails to attract participants, it should be dropped. Those that do attract participants should be widely publicized.
- We will not have moderators or "discussion leaders" in each and every Skypecast.
- These online conference calls should be fun!
It has been exciting to watch (or listen) as the idea of voice conference calls by computer have started to take shape. The results so far have been very encouraging. The idea of voice conference calls for genealogy purposes probably will continue and probably will grow. The concept of talking with others and the sharing of expertise is bound to succeed when the costs are eliminated.
I don't know if future genealogy computer conference calls will be sponsored by this newsletter or not. I also do not know if future genealogy conference calls should be held on Skype or not. But I am convinced that there will be many, many more future genealogy conference calls!