VSee Tip #7 – VSee Recording Playback and Convert from MKV File

VSee saves recorded video as Matroska (.mkv) files. To play a file, you can use VLC media player for playing MKV files on both Windows and Mac.  You can also check out other some alternatives to VLC here.

Set up VLC to Play Videos Side-by-Side

recording playback VSee

VLC for Windows view

  1. Go to Tools->Preference
  2. Uncheck the boxes for
    • “Allow only one instance” and
    • “Use only one instance when started from file manager”
  3. Save the settings.  (This will allow you to launch more then one instance of VLC player so you can play multiple videos simultaneously.)

Playing Back Videos Side-by-Side

playing MKV files simultaneously

To play all videos at the same time, in the file manager, highlight all the videos to be played at the same time, then hit “Play.”

Converting Your MKV File for Editing

Special thanks to VSee user, Tony Dennis, Founder of Freedom Star Project for the following tip.

The program I found to convert MKV files at a decent quality is Wondershare Video Converter Ultimate

Also if the client needs to extract the audio from the video without any loss at all (MKV is just like a folder that combines the audio and video) this is the program: MKV Extract GUI

This will allow people to take the audio and edit in a separate program and add it back to the video with other video editing software.

To record your VSee call, check out our post on How to Record a VSee Session.

VSee – Boldly Going Where No One Has Gone Before

Star Trek vintage

Guest Post – Anthony Watkins is Founder, Chairman and CEO of The Toney Watkins Company, a hospitality and entertainment company, currently developing international theme park resorts.

In early September of 1966, I sat with my brothers in front of our family’s television set watching this new show that was premiering on NBC called “Star Trek”.  I was immediately hooked.

More than anything, I was caught up in the technology of this new show – particularly, the Starship Enterprises’ two way video conference system. There stood Captain Pike (and later Captain Kirk) using this incredible wonder to communicate across space with Starfleet and other entities. From that point forward, I often dreamt about, searched for, and even at one point contemplated how could I create such a Star Trek video conferencing system. It’s now 2013, and I can truly say that I have finally found the “holy grail” of all video conferencing technologies.

Trapped by Skype and Other Inferior Video Conferencing Products?

For the past few years, like many businesses, our company has been using Skype Premium Services (Skype Group Video Calling, Skype Out, Skype Credits, etc.) simply because we didn’t have any better cost-effective choices.  We had tried a number other Skype alternatives such as ooVoo, Tokbox, etc—with none of them giving us what we needed.

In fact, I cannot count how many times we’ve had the video in the call freeze or dissipate, the audio fade out and never come back, or the call to simply drop all together.  We, for one, got tired of paying for these services while constantly having to tell whoever was on the other end to “Turn off your video to save bandwidth” only to have the audio portion of the call to sound like Alexander Graham Bell’s earliest attempts at a telephone. However, I’m glad to say that our company has finally been set free from the Skype video conference prison.

VSee – A Message in a Bottle

In early September of this year, I stumbled across an article comparing the various video systems out today and discovered VSee, a video chat tool for telehealth. I was so impressed with the video call quality that we are now 100% users of VSee and, in fact, we have become full-time “VSeevangelist’s.”

In addition to now being able to hold high quality individual and group video calls without worrying about the sound and video constantly breaking up, we have also been using VSee to share files, web links, as well as conduct collaborative discussions and make real time changes to architectural and engineering renderings.

Better Video Conferencing, Better Business

The following represents just a few of the uses by our company since learning of VSee three weeks ago.

  • On a recent 2 hour call, we connected our folks in Thailand, Australia and the U.S. with not so much as a hiccup. The video was smooth and clear (in default mode). All of the participants commented on how well the audio sounded.  What little degradation there was occurred in the audio stream but it was so minor that it was hardly noticeable. During this particular call we also used the drag and drop exchange of files feature as well as copying and pasting of multiple web links in the Instant Message (IM) window for web sites that we wanted to review or share.
  • To coordinate architectural site plan with our Korea office, VSee allowed us to not only review the plan and comment on it in real time, but saved us time from having to email it and wait on comments. The IM feature allowed the participants to clarify questions and comments that they did not want everyone else to see.
  • This past weekend, I was able to introduce VSee to one of our Board members who happens to be a retired computer industry executive. Ironically, his name is Veasey and it is actually pronounced “VSee”. We both got a kick out of that. His parting words to me as we ended the video conference was “Thanks for introducing me to this technology.”
  • On a call just today, one of our executives in South Africa (on a Mac laptop) could not stop raving about the clarity of the picture and high quality audio. When I told him that VSee also offered the capability to switch to 480p and even 720p, I thought he was going to pass out from the excitement.
  • On a personal note, early this year, my youngest daughter had moved into a loft in a city about 5 hours away. I have not had time to visit her yet so I convinced her to install VSee and kick Skype to the curb. She then took me on a tour of her loft by walking around with her laptop. I could not believe the clarity of the picture. This clearly blew anything that a real estate company could do as she was able to provide commentary on all of the nuances of her new digs.

The Toney Watkins Company Future is Bright Thanks to VSee

VSee is clearly major disruptor in the video conferencing space, especially for companies like ours that conduct business on a global scale.  Add to that the built in security and potential for future enhancements to the product (hopefully the developers will soon include VoIP telephone), and it is hands down the best video conferencing product available. In fact, I cannot see why anyone in their right mind would not want to have VSee installed on all their computer, phone, tablet, phablet, etc.

Of the 100 invites that I have sent out over the past 3 weeks, 34 have already joined VSee, and to a person, they have each exhibited amazement at how well this product works compared to the competition.

I have also started planning with our architects about how we could deploy VSee in the design of our hotels and hotel rooms, our customer service Kiosks and our 44 passenger motor coaches. For us, the future is now!

All I can say to Dr. Milton Chen and the entire VSee staff is that you have truly developed a world class product. May you “Live long and prosper!”

Related articles

photo credit: Joe Haupty via Flickr

7 Best Webcams for Video Calling

We have tested a wide variety of cameras with VSee, and pretty much anything that works with Windows DirectShow will give you a satisfactory experience, but a few webcams really stand out for video calling with their superior image quality due to superior optics and optical auto-focus.

1.  For general usage, we recommend the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920.  It has the all-Logitech hd pro C920important mechanical auto-focus and runs $75-$100. It can also work for telemedicine, like this cost-effective VSee-Intermountain tele-NICU setup using 3 Logitech C920 webcams. Ubergizmo has an excellent review of the C920 with pictures comparing the video quality of several other popular Logitech webcams –  Pro 9000, C910, and C920. 
Logitech c925e-webcam
2. Logitech C925e works great for businesses and is affordably priced. At $99.99, get HD quality videos in any setting.
The RightLight™ 2 Technology intelligently adjusts to improve visual quality in low-light and backlit venues. It also has a privacy shutter that allows you to close the lens when you are not on the video call (or don’t want to be).

3. If you’re on a tighter budget, Logitech B525 is a good quality camera at $60. It has a 360-swivel and fold-and-go design. It still has the clip that can attach to your laptop, and can be easily tucked away when not in use.

Logitech HD webcam C930e4. For a little bit more money, the Logitech Webcam C930e (~$130) for businesses is an excellent webcam that gives you a really spectacular, smooth HD video experience. It’s a nice choice for telemedicine with its wide 90-degree diagonal field of view and Pan-Tilt-Zoom. (However, the C920 can be adequate, too. )

Logitech webcam bcc950 conference cam

5.  The Logitech BCC950 Conference Cam is the updated version of the now discontinued Logitech QuickCam Orbit AF. It also has a 9″ stick mount for eye-level video conferencing.

It’s designed for group conferencing and has built-in omni-directional speaker phones, remote control, and 8 feet of cord length compared with the Orbit’s 6 feet. It makes nice (inexpensive) choice for room video conference calls where it can be put on the table and moved around to bring the camera closer to people’s faces. I’ve seen this camera for as low as $188, although it more typically runs around $250. Tom Keating at TMCnet did a thorough review of the BCC950. Unfortunately VSee does not support remote PTZ control for the BCC950. 

(See below for supported PTZ cameras or contact sales@vsee.com if you have questions.)

Microsoft LifeCam Cinema7. Microsoft is also in the camera business. While we’ve really liked the Microsoft LifeCam Cinema in the past, we’ve found over time that its video performance has been inconsistent and its driver bloated. It also claims to put out HD video at 30 fps although I couldn’t get it to go over 15 fps at 720p.  However, even at that setting the video was stunning.

NOTE: QuickCam Pro for Notebooks, (also sold as the Webcam C905) as previously published in this blog is now a discontinued product. You may choose between C925e, B525 or C930e depending on the functionality needs and price sensitivity.

PTZ Cameras for Telemedicine & Telepresence Conference Rooms

VSee Minnray PTZ camera

Minrray 820-usb3

Finally, if you are building out telemedicine exam rooms or a telepresence conference room and cost is no object, you should look into one of these cameras:

The first two units will start around $1,800 at least. At this price point you get really high quality optics and mechanical zoom as well as pan-tilt.

What’s nice about the Minrray and Logitech cameras is that they are both USB 3.0 devices which makes for a super simple plug-and-play set up.

Logitech PTZ Pro

Logitech PTZ Pro

Logitech also offers a complete solution with the Logitech GROUP which already includes a speakerphone in a very sleek design.

The GlobalMed camera is an analog camera. This means a fairly complicated setup that requires you to use the video capture device that Globalmed provides with it.

Logitech GROUP

Logitech GROUP

**Only the VSee customized version of the Minrray PTZ works with VSee. If you get a non-customized Minrray, you will have aspect ratio issues.

For more information about VSee telepresence system,  to see VSee’s remote PTZ feature in action, or to purchase a customized Minrray for VSee, please contact sales.

If you don’t have VSee, get it free here.

Article first posted December, 2009. Updated July 1, 2016. Updated August 2, 2016.

Four Crazy Tips For Creating Effective Remote Teams

extreme teamwork rodeo bull

Virtual teams are a very different breed of animal from traditional office teams. So it stands to reason that creating a virtual team with the same level of rapport and efficacy requires different measures or as iDoneThis CEO Walter Chen believes, it requires “extreme measures.” Here are his 4 extreme habits (via Jeff Haden and Inc.com) that will help you ensure success in your distributed team:

1. Share everything about yourself with your team.

When you’re co-located with your team you gain an incredible wealth of contextual information about your teammates just by being around them. While those details may seem superfluous or trivial, that richness of context breeds trust.

Drs. Pamela Hinds and Catherine Cramton’s research on virtual teams found that seeing how someone works in their context makes a huge difference in “greasing” the team wheels. VSee does this with virtual Daily Stand Ups. The Buffer team does this is by sending everyone home with a Jawbone UP that shares daily eat, sleep, exercise habits and having team members post what they’ve accomplished and what they plan to accomplish every single day.

2. Turn your webcam on–and leave it on all day.

How many times have you missed opportunities for spontaneous face-to-face virtual calls because you just didn’t feel like clicking that Skype, VSee, or Google video call button? Forget about making the effort to schedule a video chat. These are missed chances for serendipitous collaboration. Companies like Xerox-PARC and FourSquare make virtual face-to-face easy by having a all day video port hole in a main part of the office. This allows people from different offices to spontaneously say hello and have those important casual watercooler chats. You can set one up using VSee without any expensive Cisco videoconferencing equipment.

3. Wake up at 3 a.m. every morning.

Walter is serious about this one. Working in different time zones can really kill a team, especially if they have never met in person. The biggest problem he says are the “small frustrations and setbacks” that “accumulate and become hugely demoralizing.” With different time zones, a 2 minute answer can easily turn into a 2 day answer. This quickly builds up mistrust, a sense that the other party is unreliable, and delays to a project. In an Open Letter to Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, VSee’s Milton recommends having at least a 50% overlap in virtual team members’ work times. If you’re extreme, do like Walter suggests and go for the 100%.

4. Overcommunicate, overcommunicate, and overcommunicate some more.

When you work in a virtual team you lose the primary way you have communicated with people your whole life: face-to-face conversations. Without face-to-face access, communication often flags, creating inefficiencies or, worse, loneliness and disengagement.

The key takeaway here is don’t be an email-only communicator. Email is the lazy man’s way to communicate.  It’s easy, convenient, and non-disruptive, but it’s also the kiss of death for remote teams. It simply isn’t an effective collaboration tool on its own. In fact, the best communicators use multiple media channels to communicate the same message to their teammates. With so many collaboration apps these days, Walter encourages going crazy with the apps — the more communication tools your team uses, the merrier. At VSee, some of the tools we use are Chatter for watercooler talk, VSee video for group meetings and one-on-one video chats, IM for quick questions, and Asana for tracking group tasks. Of course, using the right communication tools for what you’re doing is also important. For example, making group decisions over email is a big no-no. However, that’s a discussion we’ll save for another post.

What are your crazy tips for improving remote teamworking?

Related articles

photo courtesy: Roy Montgomery via Flickr

5 Best Video Collaboration Tools To Ride Out the BART Strike

BART Strike line 2013The BART strike hit Bay Area’s 400K daily commuters this morning with a slap in the face. Oakland ferry lines were stretching around the corner and the Bay Bridge has been backed up since 5:30 a.m. KTVU-TV’s @sal_castaneda tweets:

In 1997 [the last BART strike] most people couldn’t work from home using a high speed internet connection. Will today’s tech help during this #BARTstrike?

The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

In fact, BART officials’ top 2 suggestions for dealing with the strike are “adjusting work hours” and “telecommuting.” If you want to carry on business as usual with these commuting alternatives, there are a gazillion new apps and tools to help you connect and collaborate with coworkers wherever you are. Here are our favorite video collaboration tools to help you stay connected. Also check out our video conference product reviews page:

1. VSee (of course!) – VSee is a super simple tool for getting work done like you’re face-to-face. VSee group video calls are always free and its signature one-click screen share (paid if >1 share) makes collaboration easy.  It also uses ultra low-bandwidth to allow you to work with coworkers on crowded wifi hubs and 3G networks. You can even integrate VSee into your own app with the VSee API.

2. Cisco WebEx – This is a full blown presentation tool with all the bells and whistles you need – moderation control, meeting scheduling, whiteboard, PSTN dial-in…you name it, it has it. It’s a great product, especially for large webinar presentations, but rather clunky for simple, quick check-ins and staying connected throughout the day.

3. Google+ Hangouts and Skype – A lot of people in the freebie crowd use these in conjunction: Skype for free 1-on-1 video calls and Google Hangouts for group meetings. However, neither of these will fly if you have concerns about privacy or security, and neither can’t beat VSee for low-bandwidth.

4. Zoom – Walt Mossberg did a rave review of Zoom when it first came out last year. It supports a lot of the same functions as WebEx with the focus on video.  Thus it has pretty good quality video, and it allows meetings for up to 25 participants. It also support iOS and Android mobile platforms.

5. Vidyo – We really have to hand it to Vidyo for doing a great job on video quality. It offers a wide range of products from desktop to room-based video conference and has been giving Polycom and Cisco Tandberg a run for their money with its software-based video conference at a quarter of the cost. But like WebEx, it’s designed more for formal meetings and presentation than lightweight collaborations.

What are your favorite video collaboration tools? Tell us in our comments.

photo courtesy: @ChrisFilippi via Twitter

VSee Tip #6 – Deleting Contacts

To delete a contact from your VSee address book, move the cursor arrow over the contact’s name until it is highlighted and right-click. Select “Delete Contact” from the menu that appears.

VSee delete contact

 In fact, you can delete an entire group in the same way, by simply right-clicking on the highlighted group.VSee delete group

* Note: the Invite Friends to VSee group can not be deleted and will always appear at the bottom of your VSee address book. You can hide this list of potential contacts by clicking on the gray triangle to the left of the group.

VSee hide contact list

More VSee Tips

 

VSee Tip #4 – Setting Your Status

Your VSee status tells other people how available you are for a video chat. VSee has four possible status indicators:

VSee status presence

  • green with white clock hands – Online but inactive at least 5 min.
  • green – Available
  • red – In a call
  • white – Offline or invisible

You can purposely change your status by clicking on your login name and selecting the status you want.

*Note: People can still call you even if you are busy or invisible!

vsee status menu

Currently, VSee has no way to set a custom message.

 

VSee Inspires Lynda Gratton’s Hot Spots Movement and the Future of Work

VSee was recently featured by the Hot Spots Movement, a specialist research and consulting team that focuses on building collaborative capability for their clients, and on future-proofing organisations. They are also the brains behind the Future of Work Research Consortium, which gathers thought leaders and innovators around the world to share models, insights, solutions and concerns of  contemporary firms.

VSee’s work in creating collaborative technology to make teamwork simple yet social has been an inspiration to the Hot Spots Movement team:

Recently we were introduced to Milton Chen, PhD and Founder and CEO of VSee, a video collaboration tool aimed at eliminating the need to commute to work.

What fascinates us about Milton? Milton is a true innovator who is good at fast prototyping and at scaling up quickly both of which are important capabilities in the future world of work. He is interested in collaboration and trust and addresses it from a very thought-provoking angle. Also, for Milton and his colleagues VSee has grown to be about more than enabling distance working.

Read more from the Hot Spots Movement

VSee Tip #2 – Audio Only Mode

VSee mute video

It’s easy to “mute” your VSee video for an audio-only conference.  Open your self-view video window and click on the webcam icon on the bottom left of your the window. If you mute the window during a call, the “muted” video setting will be saved for the next time you make a call.

Some reasons you may not want to show your video:

  • poor network connectivity – turning off your video reduces the bandwidth used in a call
  • privacy – you need to grab something from the next room and don’t want any virtual snooping happening while you’re gone
  • unforeseen issues – a giant bug is crawling over your webcam (btw, this really happened to me during a video call) or maybe you’re just having a really bad hair day.

VSee Tip #1 – Shortcuts for Arranging Your Video Windows

VSee video chat window shortcuts

Unlike most video conference services, VSee gives you tons of control over how you want to display your video windows. Click on the icon with the four tiles in the top right corner of your video window for the “Arrange Video Windows” menu (pictured above).  Better yet, try these easy shortcuts to quickly arrange your windows just the way you want.

Make video windows bigger and smaller

  • CTRL + plus key (+)  to make video bigger
  • CTRL + minus key (-)  to make video smaller

Line up video windows along one side of your screen

  • CTRL + [Arrow Keys] in the direction you want the windows to align
    • CTRL + ←   to tile left
    • CTRL + ↑   to tile top
    • CTRL + →   to tile right
    • CTRL + ↓   to tile bottom

Any window adjustments you make are automatically saved for your next call.

Save a video windows layout

You can also save a particular window order or window layout that you like to use, such as for recurring meetings. Please note that the saved layout will only apply to calls with the same number of callers as the original saved layout. Here is a quick video tutorial on how the save a video windows layout.

*Mac users should substitute CMD (⌘) key in place of CTRL, like this:

  • CMD(⌘) + plus key (+) to make video bigger
  • CMD(⌘) + minus key (-) to make video smaller
  • etc., etc.

More tips

 

VSee Tip #3 – What Do the Colored Bars on a Caller’s Window Mean?

VSee tutorial - network barsThe bars on the bottom right of a caller’s video window show you the strength of the network or connection between you and the caller.

  • Green (strong) – great audio and video
  • Yellow  (medium) – possibility of some audio and video interruptions
  • Red  (weak) – likely to have audio and video interruptions

If you have a weak connection and your call keeps breaking up, you can try one of the following to improve the call:

  • Lower the screen resolution – Go to the bottom right of your video window, click gear icon –> video settings –> resolution
  • Decrease the frame rate – Go to the bottom right of your video window, click gear icon –> video settings –> frame rate
  • Completely mute your video – Go to the bottom left of your video window, click the video camera icon

VSee tips video settings menu

If you need more help, contact customer support or sign up for a live VSee webinar help session.

Follow us on Twitter (@VSee) and Like us on Facebook to hear about the latest from VSee!

An Open Letter to Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in Response to the “No Working From Home” Memo

Dear Marissa,

At Heidy Maldonado’s wedding 10 years ago at the Stanford Memorial Church, I shared with you my dream of creating a simple tool that lets people work remotely with the same productivity of physically being together.

I am now the CEO of VSee – a video chat and screen share tool for creative teams to get things done. Our team of 30 people is spread around the world in 10 cities, with half in the SF Bay Area. Our local team comes in to work 1 day a week – to socialize, get a free lunch, and just to have fun. We’re our own lab rats to help us understand why remote work doesn’t work.

In the beginning, we suffered the same productivity issues cited by your head of HR Jackie Reses. We have overcome those productivity issues with these 3 Golden Rules of Remote Work:

1. Have a 50 – 80% work time overlap with your remote teammates.

Your teammate must be able to reach you for a quick decision as fast as if you are sitting next to each other. If a teammate can never be quickly reached, then let them go, since you will have productivity loss.

2. Don’t make decisions over email.

Teach your teammates when NOT to use email. Despite IM and social network, email is still the default method of corporate communication and it becomes easy to slip into making decisions via email – this is when you start getting CC’d email ping pongs that go back and forth for weeks. The text medium hampers our brain’s decision-making processes which is better handled by visual cortex.

3. Use the right tool for creative teamwork.

Although Webex is a great presentation tool, it requires too many mouse clicks when doing work, such as critiquing a design or hacking out some code. Skype is a great communication tool, Google+ Hangouts is a great hanging out tool, but neither are designed for teamwork. Creative teamwork requires seeing faces AND being able to share any application with a single click. Every extra click needed adds to collaboration friction that will slow down your team decisions.

Today, VSee serves 8000 enterprises from IBM and Navy SEALs to high energy startups. If Yahoo! follows these 3 Golden Rules – you will get the productivity you desire.

Why not hire VSee to be Yahoo’s remote work coach?  We can help structure your remote work processes from doing a design critique, to pair programming, to managing your remote teams. By June, you will find that your remote employees are actually more productive than your in-office employees!

Milton
CEO

P.S. As Richard Branson pointed out in his response to your memo, the world is becoming more connected. i.e. even if you go to work, your coworkers and customers will be in another location anyway.

Links to the “No more working from home” memo and some reasoning behind the new ban

How To Record A VSee Session and Presentation

VSee allows you to record the individual speakers’ videos when in a call.  Just go to your VSee address book and select Tools–>Record, give the video files a name, and you’re good to go. Files are saved to your local disk so there is no need to worry about recording time limitations.

VSee record video

On Mac, click on VSee Address Book to get the VSee toolbar.  Select File–>Start Recording. The feature is only available when you’re in a call with someone.

VSee recording Mac

Unfortunately, VSee recording does not record shared screens or desktops. It also is not enabled on VSee for Mac. If you want to record a presentation or interactive interview., we recommend using a third party screen recording software. There are lots of tools out there, both free and paid, that do the job well.

The most well-known is Camtasia by Techsmith for $300, which is easy to use and does all kinds of cool, fancy things like automatic mouse zoom, adding sound tracks and screen effects, and interactive quizzes.

If you want something that just gets the job done, there are plenty of other options. Just make sure you have enough CPU to run both VSee and the screen recording program or the video will be choppy. Also, be aware that free software usually has limitations such as limited screen recording time, limited space for storing screen recordings, watermarks, inability to edit the video, etc.

Some of the tools we’ve done pretty well with are:

  • Screencast-o-matic – web-based (requires Java), limited to 15 minutes of recording, stores only 1 video at a time, can publish to YouTube
  • Jing – created by the makers of Camtasia, limited to 5 minutes of recording, and I’ve never figured out how to record sound although it does do it
  • Screenr – web-based, limited to 5 minutes of recording, no video editing
  • Camstudio – an opensource alternative

If you need more, here are some useful reviews of free screen recording software by people that have actually tried out the software.

Here is also a nice 3-minute video by Mel at ScreencastingWizard.com discussing some of the extra features he looks for in screen casting software such as cursor control, ability to add animation, dialog boxes, text, and multiple video and audio streams.

Some of these extras you can do in a separate video editing tool like Windows MovieMaker, iMovie, or YouTube (which I’ve found takes a long time to make changes and crashes a lot), but it’s always nice to be able to do it right there in the same program.

Happy screen recording!

Remote Work: A Big Weapon for Small Companies in the War for Talent

old cannon by gb packards

Guest post by Jessica Stillman – London-based freelancer who has written for Inc.com, CBS MoneyWatch, and GigaOM, among others.

How does remote work impact recruiting for smaller firms? VSee has years of experience with which to answer this question.

Unemployment may be stuck at a dismal 10 percent, but for the best talent – especially tech talent – competition is truly fierce. That means companies are using every weapon in their arsenal to win the recruitment and retention battle – from a company-wide 10 percent salary bump (Google, of course) to a couple of cans of Dr. Pepper. But if your company has got neither the riches and name recognition of Google nor a particularly soft drink obsessed candidate pool, what can it possibly do to compete?

How about dangling remote work, suggests 37signals’ in-house blog Signal vs Noise. It’s basically free, highly valuable to potential recruits, and exponentially increases the talent pool from which your firm can draw. “Every day I read a new article about some company whining about how hard it is to hire technical staff. Invariably it turns out that they’re only looking for people within a commuters distance of their office,” declares the post, “stop whining, spend a day to get up to speed on remote working practices, and hire outside of your commuter zone.”

It’s a strategy that’s well tested at VSee, which has been using its remote set-up to snag the best talent for years, learning several valuable lessons about how virtual work impacts recruiting in the process.

From a Wading Pool to the Pacific

The most immediate impact of offering remote work is that you can offer it to top talent from anywhere. That means your possible pool of hires expands exponentially not only in terms of geography, but also in terms of candidates’ life circumstances, allowing you to attract those with special needs that keep them from making it into the office on anything approaching a normal nine-to-five schedule.

“In the recent past we’ve talked to very highly skilled people who were unhappy with their current jobs because they had a family member at home who needed medical care, or they wanted to move back to Asia for some time to look after their parents. In those cases, VSee was clearly the frontrunner,” explains VSee’s director of engineering, Yuen-lin Tan.

“We have a broader set of people to attract from by [putting no limits on] geographical location and people who have special quirks,” agrees Erika Chuang, director of user experience. The result is not only a hugely expanded search area, but also a uniquely diverse team, staffed not only by the driven twenty-somethings of start-up stereotype, but also talent from many stages of life. “It is definitely more diverse and this is no coincidence, because the way we work has allowed us to attract people from more diverse life situations,” says Tan.

Personality Trumps Geography

While the pool of workers may grow in terms of geography and life circumstances, there are other parameters that narrow slightly when you hire remotely – namely, personality. This is a lesson VSee has learned the hard way.

“We started to make [personality] a priority, because we hired some folks who were technically stellar, but their EQ was perhaps not as high. It did get a bit challenging,” says Tan.

Chuang adds,”We discovered that you have to understand the history of the person a little better when you make that hire.”

So what personal qualities does VSee insist on now in a remote team member? “You have to really be in charge of your own schedule and more goal driven instead of time driven. A lot of people basically like the clock. They go to work in the morning and then by five p.m. it’s time to go home and they don’t want to think about it after that. I think that kind of personality does not work as well,” Chuang says. Tan says he looks for people who are “natural team players, good communicators, good empathy.”

Take That, Google!

Personality fit may play a larger role in remote hiring, but the ability to offer this flexibility is, on balance, still a huge benefit to recruiting. Smaller firms like VSee will never be able to beat the glamour of the likes of Google, but remote work can give them the necessary edge to beat the big boys at the recruiting game. “If you’re Google or you’re Facebook, you have huge brand power, but when you’re the 99 percent of other companies in the world and you need a competitive advantage in hiring then [remote work] really comes in handy,” asserts Tan.

“For a lot of the people we’ve hired, [remote work] has been one of the big selling points. It gives us a competitive edge in attracting the good people that we want,” VSee Mac lead Torrey Lyons concurs. For him, it has been a battle to find and keep in-demand Mac programmers for his team.

“It’s very competitive — iPhone programmers are really hard to find now,” he explains. “Either they work for a really established big company, and they’re comfy and making a lot of money or they’re employee number two and trying to make the next big app where they’re going to get all the rewards for it. And so the middle of the road is actually probably the hardest place to be as far as recruiting people, but the fact that you can work remotely is a big plus.”

The bottom line: with a little thought, remote work can help smaller firms punch above their weight when it comes to recruiting, attracting diverse and highly talent team members.

About our guest blogger

Jessica Stillman, bloggerJessica Stillman writes for entrepreneur and business blogs such as Inc.com, CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careers, among others. A freelancer based in London, she is fascinated with unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work and collaboration! Twitter her @EntryLevelRebel

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photo credit: gb packards via Flickr

Worksnug Interviews VSee on Video Conferencing Productivity

Video link: Worksnug interview – Milton on Video Conferencing Productivity

Check out Worksnug community manager San Sharma‘s interview of VSee CEO, Milton Chen.  In 20 minutes they packed in everything from

  • why Cisco WebEx is great for sales presentations, but bad for virtual teams
  • how a 1 second delay in clicking can mean a 50% loss of productivity
  • what you need for good video communication

About Worksnug

WorkSnug is a tool that connects mobile workers to the nearest and best places to work in the major cities of the world.  With dozens of teams around the globe, they review hundreds of viable workspaces for such things as WiFi, noise levels, power provision, community feel, even the quality of the coffee.  Users can also add their own reviews to Worksnug’s extensive database.  Get reviews from the website, or better yet, from WorkSnug’s free Augmented Reality iPhone app.

More mobile working tips

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IBM Connections VSee Plugin Makes Video Conference Simple


Link: VSee integration with IBM Connections [VIDEO]

VSee’s simplest one-click video conferencing and screen share is better than Skype, and you can use it right from your IBM Connections platform without any hoo-hah.  Make your virtual teams more productive and social.  Effortlessly put a live face to presentations, meetings, and work sessions and

  • build durable relationships
  • resolve complex issues
  • convey trust
  • shorten the sales cycle
  • recruit the best-fit talent for your team

VSee integration with IBM Connections allows interactions to smoothly flow from IBM Connections to VSee IM to VSee video conference + screen share.  Also, with single sign on, seamless no-admin download, and one-click calling, VSee makes it easy to get things done.

Get the VSee plugin from the IBM Collaboration Solutions Catalog now.

VSee API

You can integrate VSee into your website or social network, too!  VSee’s simple, rich API that allows anyone to integrate video chat into her application in just a few hours. VSee API also supports secure medical work flows such as for patient engagement, triage, and virtual waitrooms.

For more information, contact sales@vsee.com today!

Also look for us at the upcoming IBM Lotusphere/Connect Conference January 27-31, 2013.

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Top 5 Ways To Use The VSee Invite Link

VSee invite url
Today, we have some VSee tips on using the VSee invite link (a.k.a. VSee invite open URL).  The invite link is a handy little web link that can take the work out of adding contacts to your address book.  Instead of always having to directly send an invite from the VSee address book, you can now stick this open invite link anywhere people are likely to look for your contact information.  Here are our top 5 placements to get your VSee invite open URL working for you:

1.  Use it In your email signature so others can always find you by VSee, like this:

Anne
Storyteller
VSee: anne@vsee.com | Cell: 123.456.7890
Join me on VSee for free

(I’ve hyperlinked my open URL to both my VSee account as well as “Join me on VSee for free” invitation.)

2.  Add it to your LinkedIn, Facebook, or other social media profile:
VSee Invite on LinkedIn

3.  Include it on your blog or website.  It’s easy to hyperlink a cute button.  Take one of ours or make your own button for free.

green web buttonFree VSee open invite button yellow

 

4.  Send it over a text chat

Me:  this is too much to type
Christina:  OK.  Phone? Skype?  Hangouts?
Christina: sweet

 

5.  Even put it in your GChat and Skype “status” strings 😉
VSee invite in Skype status string

 

To find your VSee invite link:
Go to VSee address book–> Add (+) –> Invite to VSee
The new webpage that pops up should show your open URL invite link near the bottom of the page.
Here’s a 15 second video to show you how to get it.

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VSee 2012 Summer Features Highlights

Reminder note update VSee

It’s been an exciting summer of growth for VSee!  With all the new fans we’ve been getting, you may have noticed some directory issues.  That will no longer be the case!

Our biggest improvement is that we have upgraded our directory capacity to handle the hugantic growth we’re experiencing.  The only thing is, we’ll need you to make sure your VSee has been updated to release Win 12.0.0.1012 or Mac 12.2 (13688) or above.  Please, please make sure to update VSee or you may have severe problems when using VSee.  We highly recommend uninstalling and re-installing from vsee.com to ensure you are on the latest version.

Once you’ve updated, try our 10 other favorite features that we’ve added since May:

1.  Real names now automatically displays instead of email.  Make changes to your name with “Edit Profile.”

VSee Edit profile VSee change name display

(Note: Your email is your username and cannot be changed.  To change the associated email, please create a new VSee account and request that your old account be deleted.)

2.  Handy “Join me on VSee” URL to immediately invite team mates and customers
VSee invite url

3.  Convenient “Find Contacts” functions

  • search for new contacts by email or username
  • add contact recommendations with one click
  • send email invites directly from VSee (versus a redirected webpage)

VSee search contacts

 

Type a contact’s email into the Search bar, and  click the “Find Contact” button.

VSee find contacts email invite

 

4.  Move contacts easily between groups with right-click or drag-and-drop
 width=

5.  Copy and paste from IM messages using keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl-X, Ctrl-V)
6.  Improved camera privacy (only turns on when in call)
7.  Better web proxy support (easier for enterprise users to make VSee calls)
8.  Mac VSee desktop sharing
9.  Mac VSee support for multiple auxiliary cameras
10.  Cursor display for Mac to Windows screen share

We hope you enjoy these VSee “home improvements.”  Please contact VSee support team if you have any problems, questions, or suggestions!

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Work From Home, Lose Out On Pay Raises and Promotions

blindTelecommuters, beware!  You may not be getting the credit that you deserve.  Time Moneyland reports that just showing up for work really does win brownie points putting those who work from home at a disadvantage.  In a recent article for MIT Sloan Management Review, Professors Kimberly Elsbach of UC Davis and Daniel Cable of the London Business School discuss how simply being a productive worker doesn’t necessarily score you points with your boss if you don’t put in enough face time to go along with it.

In their past 10 years of research, they have found that “just being seen at work, without any information about what you’re actually doing, leads people to think more highly of you.”  They further note that if you mush extra hard, putting in those sleeping-under-the-desk hours “rather than just being considered dependable, you can get upgraded to ‘committed’ and ‘dedicated.’”

The worst part is many managers don’t even realize they are grading you on your seat time rather than your productivity.  So even though you may be working just as hard as your in-office counterpart, it’s highly likely that you are receiving lower performance evaluations, less pay, and fewer promotions .

Fortunately, there are some remote worker tactics you can use to combat this absentee perception to get the pay raises and promotions you deserve.  Time summarizes:

Responding to emails immediately is important because it shows that you’re just as available from home as you would be in the office.

Regular phone and email updates, especially after hours [my italics], can show office workers that you know how to stay on task independently.

Telecommuters should also work to be extra visible when they do come in the office and make sure their co-workers are aware of who they are.

Also, don’t forget to use video whenever you can.  Video calling is more humanizing than email or phone and is better able to build strong trust for work relationships.  Furthermore, with more workers having flex schedules and more easy-to-use applications such as VSee, Skype, or Facetime becoming widely available, video calling is quickly becoming a required communication tool of the growing mobile workforce.

Related articles

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photo credit: Gastev via Flickr

 

Telecommuting Robots Can Boost Your Career

Would you consider using an office robot to telecommute? -WSJ poll

telecommuting robot

I’m a definite “yes”!  As a remote worker, I know that getting in face time and making myself seem “real” and personable to coworkers is crucial.  In fact, studies show that workers who put in less “face time” are less likely to be credited for working as hard as the one who does.  Studies also show that seeing and interacting with team members in their regular work environment is a big factor in improving virtual team relationships. So anything that boosts my presence and improves my work relationships sounds good to me, even if it means being a telecommuting robot.

But just how much “presence” and work context does a $9700 proxy robot give you?  Over the summer, WSJ reporter Rachel Silverman has been trying out one of these QB-82s (by Anybot, Inc) from her home office and tells of her experiences as a telecommuting robot:

“The robot made me feel closer to distant colleagues…. During my robot days, I interacted with co-workers I’d never met before, as well as others I hadn’t talked with in years; each of them was compelled to greet me as I cruised down the hall. I chitchatted at the office coffee bar, a more lively scene than sipping coffee alone in my kitchen.

…People connected with Robot Rachel, whose friendly mien was hard to resist….  I even chatted with the Journal’s top editor at the daily morning-news meeting, which never happened before from my desk in Texas.”

Source:  WSJ – Life As A Telecommuting Robot

Silverman shares that another QB user, Faith Brady at Elance Inc, is even able to fulfill her receptionist duties from across the country in Illinoise, greeting guests and offering them a drink at the company’s location in Mountain View, California.

Research with telepresence robots also has also proved to be very positive.  Cisco researchers found that people tended to be “more honest and open” with robot proxies than with human colleagues.  Microsoft researchers led by Gina Venolia found that they improved work relationships. A previous VSee blog post sums it up:

Remote workers…felt like they were more connected to the team and able to participate more fully in office life.  Their coworkers felt more familiar and friendly towards their remote counterparts and were able to interact with them in a more physical way, which also made them seem more real, especially those they had never met in person.

Source: VSee – Move Over Mini Me, Meet Virtual Me

Of course, with all the time consuming technical glitches Silverman and WSJ staff faced, it doesn’t look like the world of Star Wars or Buck Rogers is right around the corner.  Besides, robot proxies only work if you’ve got a few telecommuters.  What if you’re running a virtual office or an office where the majority of people are away from their desks on any given day?  In many cases, videoconferencing is still the way to go.  With more and more people working “flexibly,” video is becoming an essential work tool and not just an amusing diversion.  Versatile desktop video solutions like VSee abound the market these days, so it’s now easier than ever to find something that fits your remote work needs!

Related articles:

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photo courtesy: Anybots, Inc.

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