October 13, 2016

The User Experience - who is the user and what is the experience

Sorry for the long title but I hope to explain what I'm referring to.

Many articles, talking points and marketing documents in our industry are revolved around the user experience. Too many times though the conversation (d)evolves into a discussion on how products need to be simplified in order for the user to have a better "experience". An easy button does not necessarily make for a good user experience, if you're taking into account the entire experience itself. Not everything can be solved by making an easier product. They can be resolved, however, with integration and support staff whose job it is to make everything seem easy to the end user and also create a better overall experience.

In video conferencing, the experience is not about how hard or how easy it was to install the software, plug in the codec or make a call. Of course as a product tester I harp on those issues, but it really has little to do with a user's overall takeaway from the video conference. Consideration must be taken beforehand by all parties involved to make the experience better, it's not just up to product vendors to make something easy for you or your IT staff.

 While not "easy" my rack of stuff makes the experience better

The following is a short list on how you can make the video conferencing experience better, not just for you but for everyone:

Don't be an idiot
Yeah, it's hard sometimes, but you have to put yourself in the other participant's shoes every now and then. Think about how the other person is seeing your image on screen when you're walking through the airport, smartphone camera pointed up your nose in an area with a bad internet connect. No easy button fixes that. There are many other examples of what not to do to look like an idiot and I can't possibly cover them all here but at the very least be conscious of the image you are transmitting and the sound coming from your location.

If this article made you think or you simply think I'm wrong I welcome any and all comments. If you liked the article, I would encourage you to share it. Your involvement is greatly appreciated.

Room conditions
Have your room, wherever it is, set up correctly for meetings. The typical, yet often overlooked, rules apply. Good lighting, good audio, correctly set up equipment, etc. The list goes on.

Don't be the video conferencing wizard that does anything in the blog I wrote HERE.

Where is your camera and/or other necessary pieces of equipment.
Another day, another video conference with someone who has their camera "up there". I get to have a meeting with #1, his conference room and #2, the top of his head. The worse the location of the camera, the worse your experience will be. Your microphone should be close to you so the other participants can hear what you're saying. Be mindful though of clicking your keyboard, tapping your fingers or shuffling paper too close to the mics.

The user is everyone in the meeting.  For everyone to have a better overall experience it requires effort. Sure a one-button push meeting sounds good, but if it negatively affects other parts of the meeting you're not going to have a good experience. The user is not the reseller, not the installer and certainly not the IT department.

The experience is what all the participants take away from a video conference. The best experience is when you don't realize that you were in a video conference, just a meeting. You interacted, you got your business done and could look your colleagues in the eye.

A better overall user experience starts with you. So smile, you'll look better.

October 03, 2016

Agree to Disagree

OR - Why I disagree with 95% of the blogs I read

Reading the current crop of industry blogs gets tiresome after a while. There seems to be little actual opinion about products and services. It's more bullshit blogging like "UCaaS (or your favorite acronym) is Disrupting Something" or just heaping praise on the latest corporate move. With each blog I start reading about a new executive or new acquisition for example, I know how it's going to end up. I know why. We all know why.

Reasons in random order

Bloggers aren't allowed to say negative things about products

Conglomerate blogs are usually sponsored or in other methods paid by industry vendors rendering them unable to be objective (critical).

Bloggers want to be invited to special events by vendors and wouldn't dare say anything remotely negative about them.

Bloggers don't actually test and review products in depth and only regurgitate the message sent forth by the vendor's marketing team.

So why does this matter?

This is how the industry stagnates. There is a need for critical opinion. Not mean spirited blogs against "so and so" because you don't like the company, its leaders or its employees. But what we need is real in depth product reviews and real opinions about the products that vendors are making and the directions the companies are going.

The only exception is that everyone likes to bad mouth the mega corporations: Apple, Google, Verizon, Comcast. Those companies must not be inviting anyone to anything.

September 26, 2016

July 24, 2016

Content Sharing in a Video Conference

Here are some things to watch out for when sharing content in your next video conference. These are ALL completely obvious, but still people forget what they are doing.

Email/Chat pop ups
For everyone's sake, please close any chat or email programs that pop up when a new message is received. In a professional meeting, we don't want to see messages from your mother in law or emails from inappropriate senders pop up.

Browser tabs
If you're sharing your web browser, make sure you don't have tabs open to awkward websites where everyone can see your current browsing habits. Same goes if you're typing something in the address bar. You never know what will self populate as you're typing.

Don't be this guy

Make sure your computer's wallpaper is appropriate for the audience.

Having 800 programs open at once and ALT-TABbing through them
No, having every program that's on your laptop open at once is not productive. Especially so when you're sharing your screen and have to go back to that one program that's there somewhere while passing by every inappropriate program you have open.

July 10, 2016

Review of the 2015 Macbook Air 13 on the fly

Last week I purchased my first Mac. Since I've had several iPads over the past few years and recently switched to an iPhone, getting a Mac made sense. Essentially, the plan is to use this in place of the Chromebook. While I like the Chromebook, the real reason I switched is small time video editing. Right now, I am recording and editing my wife's veterinary videos with my iPhone and iMovie. Now I want to do that on a bigger screen. The Mac's version of iMovie apparently has more tools than the iOs app. Plus, I also have an insanely difficult time uploading videos to her YouTube account on my iPhone. I hope to AirDrop raw video to the Mac, edit them, then upload them from it. I hope it goes smoother.

July 03, 2016


Hi! I'm Bryan. Here's more than you'll ever want to know about me

Currently I serve as the Director of Engineering for Array Telepresence. I am also the owner of Hellard Design, where I design stuff.

I started drafting at age 13 when I took my first Industrial Arts class. I drew and then built my own wood box in that class teaching me two important life facts that still hold true today: I can design anything but I can't build shit. Since that class, all I've ever wanted to do is draw things for a living. Not artsy stuff, but stuff with a T-square and a triangle. In 1990 I made the transition to CAD drafting and left the pencil behind. Please, never ask me to build anything.

I enjoy testing products relating to video conferencing. It's part hobby and part work but all fun. Feel free to send me stuff to test or reach out if you have something like a software codec you want an opinion on. I have opinions.

Being opinionated has led me to become a so called pundit in the field of video conferencing. It's easy to call oneself an expert and act like one in a field with so many lackluster offerings. While I come across as being overly critical at times, all I want is for everyone to use video conferencing. So therefore, I hate shitty products that drive users away from the technology. If that alienates me from some people, I'm cool with that.

Finally comes the blogger portion of what I do. This is strictly for fun, but my goal if there is one is to educate the reader on video products and offerings. It's also a venue for me to pontificate about what I do and do not like. Although one would never know it based on my grammar but it actually takes me a very long time to write each blog, so bear with the frequency! Every now and again I'll write a paid article for some internet "magazine". Typically those are a pain in the ass as I must adhere to someone else's standards and write what amounts to fluff, but it pays well and allows me to buy stuff to test. I refuse to write vendor based puff pieces. Occasionally, I will write blogs regarding Array. Those are typically technical in nature and aren't marketing fluff.

I'm in to camping, hiking and wine. I usually combine all three with my wife Amy and dog Kaylee on any given weekend. It's quite a departure from my work related and high tech activities. I also routinely post things on Twitter. Please follow me @bryanhellard

My resume can be found here.


Software as a Service

Evernote, the popular note taking app, recently announced a broad change of service and pricing. Read more about it here and here. This, among other reasons is why I've become leery of the Software as a Service (SaaS) model in general for a lot of cloud based solutions. At a whim, the company can change pricing, features or even completely shut down leaving the user in their wake. This article will be random thoughts on the matter.

June 22, 2016

What is Equal-i Technology

On the surface the Equal-i technology can seem confusing since it's a new way to solve an old problem. Let this article serve to minimize any confusion regarding the exciting products from Array Telepresence, where we create a better on-screen experience in your conference rooms.

June 14, 2016

InfoComm 2016 Wrap Up

Well I ended up not doing a day two or day three recap, so I'll just finish my InfoComm articles with an overall wrap up of the events of the week. Read my day one recap here and for the rest of it, read on!

June 09, 2016

InfoComm Day One Wrap Up

Day two is here but before I hit the IMCCA Huddle breakfast, I thought I would throw out my impressions of day one.

Since we're exhibiting I was able to get on the show floor around 7:30 to get things set up. Things finally started working around 9:30 then I was off to check things out. The first thing I noticed was the Registration LINE! I've never seen that, but then again I've never had to get my badge the morning of the show. The line was incredibly long.

Pretty much my day revolved around the UC area. Of the products that stuck out to me, one was a small USB3 camera from Marshall Electronics. With a $500 price point and a fall release, this should go far. It's 1080p/30 as well and since it's USB3 it will work with any soft codec. The best thing, however, was the form factor. In an age of HUGE PTZ cameras, this comes across even smaller.

Other things I checked out - but may write about separately later - was the Panacast camera and Cisco's PresenterTrack. Both have their good points and I should probably get a Panacast in to check it out.

The innovation pavillion was cool with a couple of products to check out - chatlight and the products from silexpro.com. The former is a $30 USB light for laptop video chats and the latter looks like a miniature version of Polycom's Centro - only they also make a 3 screen version. When the Centro came out I wondered why they chose 4 screens over 3, so I was pleased that someone else thought of this.

Lunch time brought about the annual State of the Industry lunch and learn. While not wanting to leave anyone out which I understand, there were simply too many people on stage. If the number was cut in half to 5 or 6 it would have been better but I get it. Simply giving each person a minute to introduce themselves and a minute at the end so each can wrap up used 30 minutes of the time.

After lunch it was more show walking trying to check out every camera I could find. It dawned on me last night that the world needs a camera JUST for huddle spaces. The industry is all over themselves with talk of huddle rooms, yet present the old PTZ as an imaging solution. So last night I came up with a concept for one and I'll see where that can lead.

Got to run, day 2 is about to begin!

Note that my iPad and safari in conjunction with blogger has no spell check capability so please forgive the typos.