MeetingBurner Brings Fast Free Video Conferencing To The Table

Lifehacker tipped me off to this great service for web-based online meetings and webinars – MeetingBurner. This great tool offers a whole lot of functionality for free, and even more with some cash. Create an account in minutes, and host your first video conference a minute or two later. MeetingBurner does its thing without downloads – because it is web-based, set up is quite fast and costs are contained. So, what do you get for free? An online meeting for up to 15 people, email tech support, instant screen sharing, Mac & PC compatibility, audio conferencing via telephone, computer or Skype, support for mobile attendees, meeting scheduling functions, streaming host video, the ability to instantly change presenters, in-meeting chat, a customizable meeting registration page, and, automated email reminders. Geesh. What don’t you get? Well, if you pay a bit more for Pro at $39.95 a month, you can have up to 50 attendees, phone and email tech support, meeting recording and recorded meeting sharing. Premier at $99.95 a month gets you 1,000 or more atetndees, meeting analytics, SMS reminders, “AutoPilot” meetings (pre-recorded meetings that play as if live), and paywall PayPal integration. For all levels, the interface is beautiful and easy to understand. Mobile users can download the iPhone app to join meetings on the go. That should put a dent in some of the high priced video conferencing competitors.

And it’s available today! Go on, get to your meeting.

Twitter. Are You Doing It Wrong?

With only 140 characters to work with, it is hard to imagine screwing up Twitter. But, where there’s a will, there’s a way. The Atlantic reports today on a study of 43,000 responses to various types of tweets that parses out what readers liked and didn’t like in their microblog content. The study by Paul Andre, Michael S. Bernstein, and Kurt Luther revealed that readers felt about a third of tweets were worth reading, somewhat less than a third were inane and the rest fell somewhere in the middle. That’s a pretty high dreck to value ratio. Where do your tweets fall?

The researchers used a web site called “Who Gives A Tweet” to collect the ratings – users were promised anonymous ratings in turn for their own ratings of other’s tweets. After collecting reviews from over 4,200 users who rated at least ten tweets each, Andre, Bernstein and Luther began the parsing process.

And what did they learn? That the standout reason for disliking a tweet is that it’s boring. Boring often equates to tweeting old information or being repetitive. Other complaints? Links without explanation. Too many hashtags or Twitter specific syntax. Mean-spirited tweets, negative sentiments and complaints.

And what did people like? The highest value was ascribed to informative and funny tweets. Usually a tweet was rated one or the other but not both. And, despite the 140 character limit already serving as a brevity inducing mechanism, people appreciated more concise tweets that got the information out in as few words as possible. Reader also appreciated thoughtful questions to followers, deeming it a good use of the medium. Finally, and somewhat surprisingly, self-promotional tweets did not suffer any more negative treatment than passing along someone else’s news or content – readers appreciate the news, even if that news is generated by you rather than the AP.

The report concluded with these thoughts:

Content. Information sharing, self-promotion (links to personally created content) and questions to followers were valued highly, while presence maintenance, conversational and ‘me now’ statuses were less valued.

Emerging Practices. Our analysis suggests: embed more context in tweets (and be less cryptic); add extra commentary, especially if retweeting a common news source; don’t overuse hashtags and use direct messages (DMs) rather than @mentions if more appropriate; happy sentiments are valued and “whining” is disliked, and questions should use a unique hashtag so followers can keep track of the conversation.

 Even though I already focus most of my Twitter activity on passing along news, this report gives me ideas about how to package my tweets in a more appealing format. Might be worth taking a look at your own content to see if you fit within the worth saving or worth chucking file. Because, you don’t want to wonder whether your tree makes a sound when it falls in the Twitter forest and there’s no one there to hear it.

Remarks: An iOS PDF Mark-up App With Something Different

I usually save the mobile apps for my Mobile App of The Day blog, but this one seems particularly useful for attorneys and worth a mention here in the Studio. Remarks is a new PDF app designed for the iPad from the fine folks at Readdle who know a thing or two about annotation and PDFs on the mobile screen. It is a fully featured PDF annotating application, with a variety of tools to fine-tune your marks. You can highlight, underline, strikeout text, draw upon the documents – that means pretty much anything you can do with the document on paper. But what sets Remarks apart from other apps, like another fav of mine iAnnotate and the like, is the extremely simple view / interface. It drops the complex layers and just gives you the WYSIWYG experience. Combine that with an able note-taking interface and it seems Remarks might be a replacement for more than few apps on your iPad. Notes become PDFs, which can then be easily viewed, printed and edited on your computer. Share notes with others for their perusal and comments. From the iTunes description, here are a list of features:

★ Make notes

Write everything you think is important on a meeting, lecture or presentation.
★ Sketch new ideas
Draw the plan to take over the world. Maybe even two, just in case.

★ Type in text notes
Prefer typing text to handwriting? We have a tool for that.

★ Annotate PDFs
Mark important things in books, journals or documents that you need to review.

★ Draw with your finger
Use it to make remarks in scanned books or simply draw something beautiful.

★ Co-edit notes with friends
You can edit notes made by any other Remarks user and vice versa.

What else Remarks lets you do:

✓ Add Notes Quickly
Only one tap is needed to start new a note, no matter where in the application are you located at the moment.

✓ Exchange documents with your computer
Use a USB cable and iTunes File Sharing to transfer notes and PDFs between your iPad and your computer.

✓ Edit your notes on the Mac or PC
You can make changes into your notes using any PDF editing application like Preview on the Mac or Adobe Reader on the PC

✓ Annotate Email Attachments
Open PDF attachments directly from the Mail app to annotate them.

✓ Share Notes With Your Friends
Email your notes to any other person with Remarks and they will be able to edit it like their own.

✓ Import PDFs from Dropbox, Box.Net, Safari and other applications.
Use “Open In” to transfer documents for note-taking or annotation from any popular cloud storage or iPad app.

 

You can get Remarks for $4.99 in the app store – a small price to pay if it becomes your favorite note-taking, PDF annotating, document collaboration app on the go.

 

 

Grammar Rules For The Nerds In Tweed & Everyone Else

I love Fark. If you haven’t read their “news” stories, you really should. You are in for a treat. Diverging from their normal “news of the weird” types of posts, Fark links to this Lit Reactor post by John Gingerich entitled 20 Common Grammar Mistakes that (Almost) Everyone Makes. To encourage you to hit the link and read the gems, I am not going to copy here the usage rules, but I will point you in the right direction with the instances of grammar danger, a few of which hit my pet peeve list:

Who and Whom

Which and That

Lay and Lie

Moot

Continual and Continuous

Envy and Jealousy

Nor

May and Might

Whether and If

Fewer and Less

Farther and Further

Since and Because

Disinterested and Uninterested

Anxious

Different Than and Different From

Bring and Take

Impactful (*hint: it isn’t a word and neither is irregardless)

Affect and Effect

Irony and Coincidence

Nauseous

Perhaps my favorite part of the article is Gingerich’s acknowledgement that grammar is an “ultra-micro component in the larger picture.” However, it is worth paying attention to the rules when your audience may demand such attention or when failure to fix may distract attention in unintended ways. How’s that for a mouthful?

Updates to Google Docs Are Spiffy

Yes, I said spiffy. One of the questions most frequently asked of me is how to work on documents across devices and ensure that changes made in one place show up everywhere. There are plenty of different options for reaching this result, but one of my favorites is Google Docs. In its early days, Docs was a super-stripped down word processor that primarily offered the ability to access the document from anywhere. Heavy on the access, light on the processing feature set. But Google has been steadily improving the interface and the tools, making Docs more like a replacement of your local processor, rather than a supplement. And mobile improvements are high on the priority list.

Case in point. Google Docs Blog has just announced a few nice new features specifically designed for Android, including the ability to designate certain files as available for offline access and write-ability and improved view on Android-powered tablets. For files that you’ve selected to make available offline, Docs will automatically update the changes when you enter Wi-Fi. Or manually update when you are in a data connection by simply opening the file. For tablet users, get ready for a high-definition version of your document when viewing online. Swipe left and right to navigate through pages or use the slider at the bottom for quick maneuvering.

Some people are put off by working with their documents on their phones or tablets, but I have found the ability to do so very helpful in certain circumstances. Google Docs and Android users now have even more to love about mobile word processing.