Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 .

“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god. ” — Aristotle, “The Politics”

When you sit down and think about it, many of the greatest accomplishments of the human race are collaborative efforts.  The cathedrals of medieval France.  MGM musicals like “Singing in the Rain” or “Royal Wedding”.  Democracy.  The Renaissance.  A Double Double Cheeseburger with Fries from In ‘N Out Burger.

These are things that could only have been created by a group effort, human beings working together.

Why?  Because we are, as Aristotle observed more than 2,300 years ago, social animals.  We live a common life together.

So if we live a common life together and are, at heart, social animals, why do so many teleconferences not work?  What, exactly, causes them to be disappointing failures?  I think I can confidently state that it is not because we are either beasts nor gods.

What causes many teleconferences to fail is a combination of insufficient technology and basic human politeness.  There are what I call “the pain points of teleconferencing.”   And they are solvable problems.

1. Set an agenda.  Stick to it.

Unless the teleconference is between NFL owners, nobody gets to talk about the Super Bowl.

Before your next teleconference, send out an agenda to everyone.  These are items we will be discussing, and this is the order in which we’ll be discussing them.  People are busy, and while your teleconference may in fact be the most important part of their work day, it is not the only part of their work day.  Nothing kills a teleconference quicker than desultory talk about the weather, the latest flu outbreak or last night’s episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.”  We all have other things to do today besides chit chat right now.  Stay on point, stick to the agenda, finish the call.

2. People are going to arrive late.  Deal with it.

It’s just going to happen: people are going to show up late.  They’ll have a million good reasons.  We don’t need to hear them.  We also don’t need to recap what’s been discussed already.

Think of it this way: somebody shows up late to Mass.  The priest doesn’t stop the proceedings, introduce everyone, and then recap what’s happened so far.  No.  If you show up late, you check where in the liturgy (agenda) we are, listen in and catch up on your own.

There’s no reason a teleconference can’t operate that way either.

3. Use technology that works.

Teleconferencing technology should do the following:

— allow automatic sharing of documents during the call

— visual identification of who is speaking and participating

— late entrants can join without interrupting — or stopping — the call

If your teleconferencing system can’t do these things, your calls are going to be less effective, more painful for the callers, and, ultimately, less collaborative.

We’re human beings.  We’re social animals.  We’re working on a problem together.  Any technology you are using that disrupts collaborative work is anti-social and goes counter to who we are in our essence.

Monday, July 14th, 2014 .

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There’s a powerful and remarkable management tool available to you right now. It’s in your pocket, just sitting there getting covered with lint and scratched up by your house keys.

It’s your smartphone.

And what’s even better, you can run your business without even being in the office.

How do I know?  We do it at Firespotter Labs.  Our company has launched two major products (NoshList, a restaurant seating app, and UberConference, a conference calling app) and are about to launch another product (more on that later). And most days, we rarely have a full complement of engineers, designers, and management in the office.  In fact, two days a week everyone works remotely.

There is a distinctly practical reason for this: not being in the office prevents meetings. There is nothing intrinsically evil with meetings. Sometimes, we need to get physically get together to go over where we are on projects, build group understanding and consensus on how to move forward, and to encourage personal camaraderie and a sense of teamwork.

But meetings also take up time.  Time that is diverted from working on our products.  We have found that a sometimes remote workforce that can quickly assemble in our offices is the most effective way for us to manage our company.

Here are the four key tools accessible on your smartphone that can help you  manage a staff while being mobile:

1. Use cloud-based apps for documents.  We use Google Docs for documents and spreadsheets and Dropbox and Box for sharing documents. You can fully control who has access to these documents, and who has edit privileges.  Google Docs allows us to share documents immediately without email.

2. Use a project management app.  We use Asana.  Tasks are posted, deadlines assigned, and the person responsible is listed.  Everyone knows can see what everyone else is working on and when it is due.

3. Use a chat or messaging app.  We use Gchat.  Even in the office — which is an open office with employees sitting at stations on long tables — we use Gchat to communicate with each other individually with requests, questions, etc.

4. Use a conference call app.  For obvious reasons, we use our own product, UberConference.  We conference with each other many times every day– linking each other on calls, many times with employees spread all over the country — to touch base on particular issues or to hold meetings.  It is our intimacy with the needs of businesses in conference calling applications that drives our design of this product.

All of these tools are accessible from your smartphone. You can be anywhere and with your smartphone you can use these tools to effectively manage your staff and move your business forward. Especially with remote teams in different cities, it’s the future of work.

Monday, May 21st, 2012 .

uberconference_desktop

Firespotter Labs today announced from TechCrunch Disrupt NYC the launch of its game-changing audio conferencing service,ÜberConference. A free audio conferencing service with a visual interface, ÜberConference solves the most common problems faced in teleconferencing including making a conference easy to join, knowing who is participating, knowing who is speaking, and making advanced features easy to use.

“Everyone’s experienced the pain of teleconferencing issues ranging from forgetting the PIN to not knowing who’s on a call to noise in the background, yet there’s been virtually no innovation in audio conferencing – a $3 billion market – in the last 30 years,” said Craig Walker, CEO and founder of Firespotter Labs. “ÜberConference changes the experience entirely, doing away with all the pain points and adding value by incorporating public information on each participant from LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+, making it easy to know who’s on a call and to quickly gather information about the caller. With ÜberConference, not only have we simplified teleconferencing but we’ve significantly improved it.”

Previously CEO of Dialpad, which became Yahoo! Voice and founder and CEO of GrandCentral, which became Google Voice, Walker together with his team focuses on making complex telephony services easy to use.

With ÜberConference, joining a conference call is simplified. As long as participants’ numbers are in the organizer’s contacts, a PIN is no longer required and people are automatically joined to the conference on dialing in. The call organizer and participants all have access to a dashboard where they see images of the participants, know who is speaking at any given moment, and can quickly see participants’ public social media information. The organizer can also easily use advanced features such as mute, earmuffs and social media research with a click of a button.

iPad and iPhone apps are under development and will launch in the coming weeks. To sign up for the ÜberConference beta go to www.uberconference.com.

Monday, March 3rd, 2014 .

unnamedLinda Beltran is UberConference’s very own Customer Support Representative. She is an asset to our entire company and her spunk and personality is legendary to our customers and team. Last week, Linda posted a video of her son (also a big personality) and it went viral.

 

Q: Please introduce yourself to the UberConference blogosphere.

 A. My name is Linda and I am the mother of 3-year-old Matthew and his little brother Kevin (aka PaPas).

Q: You posted a video last week that’s gone a little viral. Tell us about it.

A. Like all my other videos, I initially posted this one to share with friends and family. Well, they happened to share it, and the people they shared it with shared it, and so on.  I’ve always said Mateo is an old soul. The kid definitely keeps us on our toes, and this video depicts him, well, accurately.

If Mateo feels the need and has a valid argument, he will be sure to voice it. He felt he didn’t need to eat dinner since he already had lunch, and that cupcakes were a suitable compromise.

Q: Mateo wanted a cupcake? Throw down the scenario.

A. On this particular night, I went to Gramma’s house to pick him up. Gramma told me he didn’t want to eat his dinner. I let Matthew know that we would not be having a fun night unless he ate his dinner. He found some hidden cupcakes and was on a mission to have them. After a back-and-forth of “Mommy pleassseee can I have them?” and me telling him not until he had dinner, he decided to wait until I wasn’t paying attention to use those cute eyes of his on Gramma, which was not-so-secretly hilarious.

Mommy’s spidey-sense kicked in, I grabbed my phone and thought, “Let’s see where this goes.” Gramma and I had to keep a straight face. The end result was the video. He was unaware the camera was on as I was pretending to ignore him and be busy with the phone.

Q: Why does Mateo call you Linda?

A. This summer we went on a family trip to a theme park.  We came across a lost boy, who could not for the life of him tell us his name or parents’ names. We felt horrible, and as we handed him over to park staff we realized we’d never really told our boys what our names were–they only knew us as Mommy and Daddy. We didn’t want them to ever be in the same situation and not know our names, so we taught them, and they quickly learned. This made Mateo feel a little empowered.

For the most part we are still Mommy and Daddy,  but when he is serious and wants to make sure we are paying attention, we quickly become Linda and Kenneth.

 Q: When is Mateo going to visit the UberConference office?

A. Funny you mention that. Since the video has been out, we’ve been asked by numerous friends and family members if he can stop by their offices, as requested by co-workers who saw the video. They even offered to bake him cupcakes.

Let me check his busy schedule and I will get back to you on that!

Q: If  Mateo was going to be on a conference call, who would it be with?

A. If it were up to mom, Ellen DeGeneres. If we ask Mateo, he could have a pretty serious conversation with Batman, Spiderman AND Superman. Wait, I can’t forget Ironman and the guy with the ice that goes sswwooossshhh. That would be good.

Mateo is quite a tough cookie.

He is, but I want everyone to know that he isn’t disrespectful. In an effort to raise independent young adults, we let our children have a voice. I’m a new parent and I’m learning as much from my kids as they are learning from me. The arguing started way before Mateo could talk–he would let us know he didn’t like certain shoes or clothes with his baby blabber. I love seeing a little more of their personalities as they grow. Mateo has his own spunk and is becoming his own little person. I love that about him. The boys know when mom is serious and when they can engage in some healthy debate. In an effort to raise my kids with a voice, I pick my battles and sometimes let them feel like they’ve won…or at least give them the chance to try. :)

Friday, December 21st, 2012 .

UberCast with UberConference’s own Creative Director, Alex Cornell

How does one overcome creative block? Our Creative Director and cofounder here at UberConference, Alex Cornell went and asked the most creative and inspiring people he knew and wrote a book about it called Breakthrough!: Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination.

On top of being a new author, this Duke grad is also a musician, aridiculously talented videographer, maker of the Plancast penguin, and many other beautiful things on the web. Alex is a creative force! He’s also responsible for pretty much everything you see out of UberConference from our website design, logo, recently launched iPhone and Android apps and too many other things to list here. All from his creative mind! So he definitely knows a bit about creativity and block and how to overcome it. Here are a few tips he’s pocketed along the way:

1. Working in a fast-paced environment helps you eliminate unnecessary distractions or hurdles. We’re on fire over here at UberConference and this dude does quality work fast!

2. Make the stakes high. Alex recommends going somewhere, getting an expensive hotel and holing up for the weekend to just push through and do the work. You’ll be spending some money so you’re going to make it count.

3. If you find yourself stuck, let it go and come back to it later. Sometimes hurdles resolve themselves after a while.

4. Take a break. Walk around and clear your mind. It’s important to just step back a bit when needed.

5. Putting random sentences together in a book can help you come up with creative visualizations for campaigns or writing. Very effective at reworking the mind (there’s an example of how one does this exactly in the podcast).

Links mentioned:

ISO50 Blog

Get Alex’s new book “Breakthrough” on Amazon

*Also available at Barnes and Noble, Urban Outfitters and various independent bookstores.