Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 .

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We’re huge fans of WebRTC at Switch Communications–it’s used in both of our products.  One reason we love it (among many) is for the high-quality audio it provides for our customers. Using the Opus codec to transmit sound, and in our case — voice, over the Internet, WebRTC gives both Switch.co and UberConference crystal clear audio with very little delay.

In the spirit of the WebRTC Conference happening in San Jose this week, today’s post will cover what the Opus codec actually is and why we’re excited to be able to use it in our web communication products.

 

What is the Opus codec?

A codec is what translates sounds into digital data and carries it across the network to make voice over IP work. The Opus codec, in particular, is a totally open, free, and versatile audio codec, designed for speech and music transmission over the Internet. Compared to other codecs out there, Opus has the ability to adapt to available bandwidth for highest possible quality audio with low delay. Developers can use it under liberal, royalty-free licenses, making it accessible at little to no cost and easy to implement into other internet applications.

 

What Opus does for Switch.co and UberConference

When building Switch.co and UberConference, our priority was to improve the current state of business phone calls and create the best possible experience for our users. Part of this meant implementing WebRTC into our products for rich sound and high-quality calls through the browser. Opus gives us the opportunity to communicate over the Internet in real-time with superior quality, regardless of the type of network link our customers are using. We no longer need to know whether the customer’s network will support wideband audio or only narrow band. The Opus codec will determine the optimal bandwidth and fidelity settings based on the network path and continually adjust in real time. This flexibility makes it easy for us to still have high-quality business calls away from our desk and on our personal devices.
Going to the WebRTC Conference and Expo this week? Check out our CEO Craig Walker’s keynote on how WebRTC opens doors for new capabilities and offers on Thursday at 10am.

Friday, April 4th, 2014 .

Here’s a piece of trivia you probably didn’t know, unless, of course, you are an entomologist (and even then you might know this): there are 17 varieties of locusts. Well, okay, there’s actually only 12 varieties, with three subspecies of tree locusts, and a couple more grasshoppers that are similar to locusts.

The actual number isn’t important (unless, again, you’re an entomologist, and even then probably not that big a deal).

What is important is that there are numerous ways that different kinds of locusts could come along and really ruin your crops in pretty terrible ways, although I’m guessing the Italian Locust would at least be stylish about it.

Similarly, as part of scholarly research I’m doing for my Ph.D. thesis at the University of Quito on “Violence-Centered Group Dynamics and Interpersonal Relationship Management in Drug Cartels: Why All the Anger?”, I have identified approximately 11 Irritating Conference Call Types. Today, we will examine two of these varieties.

1. The Repeating Everything Everyone Else Already Said Guy: Ever heard this kind of exchange in a conference call?

CALLER 1: Okay, so, what we’re planning on doing on the 19th is bringing the cement over the George Washington Bridge in a stream of approximately 125 mixers beginning at 4 am..

CALLER 2: Great. I’ll make arrangements with the city to have lights approved for the site prior to the arrival of the first truck.

REPEATING GUY: So, as far as the 19th goes, the plan is to bring in about 125 mixers across the George Washington Bridge starting at 4 a.m. That means we’re going to have to have lights. I guess arrangements will be made with the city than for lighting the site, right?

(LONG SILENCE)

CALLER 1: Yes, that’s what we just said.

REPEATING GUY: I know. I just wanted to clarify that the trucking of the cement over the George Washington Bridge will start at 4 a.m. on the 19th so that will have to be lit with approval from the city.

(EVEN LONGER SILENCE)

CALLER 2: Can we kill you?

CALLER 1: In a slow and painful way?

REPEATING GUY: So you’re suggesting that as far as my death goes, you two want to arrange it, and to make it slow and painful?

The Repeating Everything Everyone Else Already Said Guy suffers from a basic lack of self esteem.  He believes that people think he has nothing to contribute to the conversation, but if he repeats what other people are saying it will make it seem as if he has something to contribute.  In this regard, the Repeating Everything Everyone Else Already Has Said Guy is justified in his low self esteem.  He, in fact, has nothing to contribute.  He should do two things:

  • Not contribute
  • Have low self-esteem

2. The Irrelevant Topics Gal

There you all are, deep in a discussion about pricing levels on volume purchasing by major customers when this happens:

CALLER 1: I have to be honest, Carol, I think 18% is too deep a discount even on a million unit buyer.  Our margin on this is only 4% already.

CALLER 2: But Bilox Industries is offering a 16% discount at that level.  We have to do something competitive to hold market share.

IRRELEVANT TOPICS GAL: Excuse me, but does anyone know anything about upper respiratory infections in cats?  I think my cat, Bobby, has one because he’s sneezing and his breathing is labored.

CALLER 1: We weren’t really talking about cat diseases.

CALLER 2: Bobby sounds really sick.

IRRELEVANT TOPICS GAL: I’m so worried about him.

CALLER 2: Have you spoken to your vet?

CALLER 1: Can we get back to the business discussion we were having?

CALLER 2: Her cat is really sick, Bob.  Don’t you have a heart?

CALLER 1: I do, but…

IRRELEVANT TOPICS GAL: Jerk.

CALLER 1: Sorry.

The Irrelevant Topics Gal also suffers from a basic lack of self esteem.  She believes that people think she has nothing to contribute to the conversation, but if she changes the subject, she can hide this fact.  There’s no hiding it, however, but she can do three things:

  • Not contribute
  • Have low self-esteem
  • Let the cat go

In future essays, I will examine additional character types who ruin conference calls. It’s important to be able to identify these types quickly during the call so you can mute them or lock them out in order to keep your conference call moving forward.

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 .

Want some tips on being more productive in your business?

You’ll want to check out the latest ebook from Evernote Productivity Ambassador, Joshua Zerkel. The ebook Evernote @ Work, The Ultimate Guide to Implementing Evernote in Your Business has a number of tips on using Evernote to be more efficient. ÜberConference is one of the Evernote integrations mentioned in the book, and is highlighted as a tip for  keeping your meetings on track. ÜberConference’s integrationstarted as a way to automatically saves call summaries in Evernote, and last week added a new feature for sharing Evernote notes in meetings.

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Thursday, March 12th, 2015 .

Back in October, Firespotter Labs became Switch Communications, and we launched our second voice product, Switch—the cloud-based phone system for Google Apps users.

With a team deeply-rooted in telecommunications (our CEO Craig Walker founded both Google Voice and Yahoo! Voice), we launched Switch Communications to get back to what we love doing: building scalable voice products for the the modern worker.

Starting today, we’re moving our UberConference content over to the Switch Communications blog. Don’t worry, UberConference isn’t going anywhere, we just think it makes sense to talk about Switch and UberConference together as two amazing unified communications products that help us better connect when and where we work best.

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We look forward to sharing more awesome updates— from customer stories, product news, and helpful tips on how to make the most of Switch and UberConference.

Head on over and check out our first UberConference post about our customer, Mapbox.

Thursday, June 13th, 2013 .

My first job was working as a sales manager at computer giant CDW, a large computer company in Chicago, where I chatted on the phone all day with I.T. directors and helpdesk managers.

Most of my clients were I.T. guys who worked at the helpdesk and were responsible for keeping the company’s technology infrastructure up and running.

When tech support issues are straightforward, I.T. professionals resolve them with a quick phone call, instant message, or email to the customer.

When tech support issues cannot be resolved immediately, the standard protocol is to log the issue as a ticket in a helpdesk ticket tracking system like Mojo Helpdesk. From there, the ticket is assigned to an expert, or team of experts, who can most efficiently resolve the issue.

Sometimes you’ll have up to 3-4  employees getting involved to solve a support ticket. This is where the combination of a ticket tracking system like Mojo and a conference calling system like UberConference can start to aid internal efficiency.

Instead of flooding a support ticket with ton of comments and creating a confusing ticket thread that’s hard to follow, the support staff can hold a conference call to resolve the customer issue, using the helpdesk ticket as a reference during the discussion.

Very frequently, support staff can accomplish more in a 5-minute conference call than they can by exchanging 20+ emails.

Even if the conference call doesn’t fully resolve the issue, support staff can record the call, and make note of outstanding follow ups.

Those follow-ups can be added as tickets in Mojo and then assigned to the appropriate topic experts, and tracked to completion (i.e. the answer is sent to the customer). Once the ticket is solved, Mojo saves it automatically for future reference in case another customer has a similar issue.