Thursday, August 23rd, 2012 .

Conference calls usually are a pain. One of the things I hate the most is having to enter a long PIN followed by a pound sign to join a call. It’s nearly impossible when you’re driving or dialing in from your mobile phone to go back and forth from your email or calendar app to the phone dialer to enter them. They’re painful, and we think there’s a better way.

With ÜberConference we have a “no PIN” solution. When you create your ÜberConference account, you enter all the phone numbers you might be dialing in from (home, cell, office, etc.). The only time you’ll ever need to enter a PIN to join one of your conferences is if you dial in from any number other than the ones on your profile. This is great for you, but what about the other callers? Basically, we treat all the other callers the same way. If you invite somebody to a conference call, they’ll need no PIN and will be automatically added so long as they dial in from a number that you have for them in your address book. This is a great reason to sign in with your Google account or to upload your address book once you’ve joined ÜberConference (it makes it easy for us to identify your callers based on their caller ID).

Of course some people love entering PINs…otherwise why would they put up with it? I was invited to a conference call through another provider today, and I kid you not, there was a 9 digit PIN to get into the conference…and it was shared with everybody on the call. Were there really 900 million other calls going on at that time that would force me to use a 9 digit PIN? C’mon!

Since we hate PINs so much, you may be asking why we provide them to our users…good question. First, you will need it if you call in from some unknown number to keep your conference secure. Second, you may not know everyone needed for the call, so PINs can be shared with people not invited directly. Hopefully after that first amazing UberConference though, everybody will sign up for their own account and not ever need a PIN again 🙂

We’re working on some other features to make joining calls even easier. Soon you’ll be able to have UberConference dial out to all the people you want on the call at the time of your call. All they’ll have to do is answer the call and press 1 to join the UberConference. Sweet, right?

If you have any other suggestions or thoughts, feel free to shoot us a note at ideas@uberconference.com and we’ll be sure to think about them.

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013 .

So, what is Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC), anyway? The idea isn’t new but people who use voice and video conferencing are beginning to hear it every day. At UberConference we use it to make it easy to join conference calls over the Internet from anywhere.

WebRTC allows real-time voice, video, and data to stream between two people using a web browser. There’s no need for plugins or third-party software, only the latest Chrome or Firefox.

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Until recently, web browsers were where you did pretty much everything except conferencing – web surfing, email, watching videos. However, the biggest disadvantage of the web browser was that it was lousy at two-way voice and video calls.

That kind of real-time communication had been challenging for companies for many years because the voice and video compression-decompression algorithms (called codecs) were really expensive. Only a few companies owned them, and they charged pricey licensing fees. In addition, browsers could only request data or send it upon request, not send and receive it in real time, as video chat requires.

To understand this, consider that browsers have been evolving ever since their creation to allow us to do more and more on the web. Plugins were introduced in the mid-late ’90s, which allowed developers to play videos with flash, facilitating a move toward the beginning of video communication. Then, in 2004, the browser language HTML5 developed the <audio> and <video> tags to allow this multimedia content to live in your browser without the need of a plugin. However, real time communication (RTC) remained a challenge because browsers lacked a method to send and receive data in real time, and often the stumbling block were the expensive codecs used to interpret the media communications between users.

For WebRTC to be truly effective, everyone needed access to the high quality codecs. In 2010 Google took on the challenge and purchased two companies: GIPS and On2. This turned the VoIP market on its head.

Here’s why: GIPS was a leading provider of VoIP codecs, On2 had a video codec that rivaled the H.26 standard. And Google open sourced them both, giving the RTC industry a giant push forward.

To solve the media transmission problem, the WebRTC collation created a set of open protocols for browsers to expose to developers. As browsers adopt this standard and implement them, developers can quickly write RTC applications with a few lines of JavaScript code.

That’s why WebRTC has been a big deal for UberConference and for all Internet users. It lets them conference in real-time without having to mess around with applications or phones or leave their web browser.

This is a huge benefit for emerging companies, who, ten years ago, would have paid significantly higher costs for  hardware and services to set everything up. They can now build their companies with a much lighter – and cheaper- footprint. Now that’s something to call your CEO about.

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.

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013 .

We’ve just upgraded UberConference to High Definition (HD) audio.  Anyone who joins a conference call from their computer now sounds absolutely fantastic.  As if our visual interface wasn’t enough, now you’ll really want to connect to calls through your computer.

Call into your next conference call on Chrome to experience the difference. Schedule your call now!

For now, Google Chrome is required to enjoy Audio HD. We’re working on adding support for Firefox.  As more browsers support WebRTC, we’ll add them too.

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 .

We created UberConference to make your day more enjoyable and productive. When we launched, we joined an ecosystem of other apps that had the same mission and since then we have seen other, new apps join us. We recently decided to make a series on this blog where we recommend some of our other favorite apps in Google’s Chrome Web Store. We hope that you enjoy and find it useful!

Any.DO-Logo-+-NameAny.do: If you use dozens of post-its or a sheet of paper or a word document to keep track of your to-do list, then Any.do is going to be a much needed breath of fresh air. The app, which has a sparse and intuitive interface, is available on iOS, Android and in the Chrome Web Store, so you can keep track of your to-dos wherever you are and they remain synced. You might also enjoy some of its other features:

  1. Drag & drop to plan your agenda
  2. Add reminders, so you never forget a thing
  3. Attach notes, or use them as sub-tasks
  4. Embedded Gmail features let you quickly turn emails into actions

asana

Asana: Asana’s tagline is “Move out of email and into Asana.” While our team hasn’t completely forsaken email, Asana has cut back heavily on the back and forth and has made it much easier to track where individual products stand. One of the greatest accomplishments of Asana is how much it cuts back on meetings and needless paperwork tracking progress of projects, freeing up more time for actual work! There is a premium plan for larger teams, but the service is free if your team has less than 15 members.

Evernote_Logo

Evernote: Evernote promises to help you remember everything. It does. With Evernote, all of your notes, web clips, files and images are made available on every device and computer you use. You can use Evernote to keep yourself on track or to collaborate with your team by sharing files, notes and links.

 

Let us know what you think!