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DearWebby is actually Helmut Morscher, the CEO of Webby, inc.

Originally the "Tech Support Pits" were reports of the funniest tech support incidents, but over the years the column gradually shifted to answering tech support questions put forward by the readers of the Dear Webby Humor Letter.

This collection of computer and web advice was started partly because readers demanded an archive, and partly because some questions were asked again and again. Each page has a different day's Tech Support Pits column.

Have FUN!
Tech Support Pits column from Dear Webby's Humor Letter of
06/21/05: On-Line Conferencing

Tech Support Pits:
From A.J.=== Dear Webby I got an ad about Linktivity and their on-line conferencing. Compared to on-location meetings $2879 sounds like quite a big saving. How reliable are those on-line conferences? A.J. Dear A.J. Ask your kids to show you how to use MSN Messenger for free, and save those $2879. Or send them to me. (The dollars, not the kids!) On-Line Conferencing is nothing new. We have been doing that for 15 years. MSN Messenger is nowhere near as good as PowWow used to be, but it is currently the most reliable conferencing tool. Don't get the Plus, but get the standard add-ins for voice and video.. The secret to good on-line conferences is the same as for on-location conferences: Prepare, prepare, prepare! Make a special folder for the conference, and put all files, that you possibly might need, into that, so that there won't be any emabarrassing pauses while you hunt them down. If at all possible, upload pictures and douments to a conference folder beforehand. That's the equivalent of the printed reference material laid out in a traditional conference or meeting. Ideally, you get everybody to read the reference material beforehand, so that everybody knows what the meeting is about, and you don't have to waste time making speeches, but can skip right to the discussion part. Just like with a traditional meeting it is extremely important that you "dont let democracy break out" and the meeting deteriorate into off-topic gossiping by individual groups or pairs. Remind them that their gossip shows in the log and WILL be printed for all attendants. That usually shuts them up and lets you bring everything back on topic. If you use the built in PowWow style whiteboard, the only rule that works is ONE AT A TIME. With the exception of a well practised team throwing up a diagram as teamwork, and knowing beforehand, which parts will be drawn by the other members, you will get the same chaos as when you let a whole group of people at a wall type whiteboard. Hilarious to watch, but not very productive. The success of an on-line conference does not really depend on the brand of software you use, but on how well prepared you are, and on how mean a tyrant you are. Using standard meeting calls and procedures are absolutely necessary, if you don't want the conference to deteriorate into a chaotic party. There are huge benefits to on-line meetings. You can have advisors and helpers surround you and feeding you the right links at the right time, draw up diagrams or contracts, and it will all appear to everybody as if you just had done all the homework. While using video works quite well, we found it to be more of a novel distraction than a conference tool, and have not used it for serious meetings since about 1996. Video is better suited to one-on-one meetings like interviewing job candidates or performance evaluation meetings. If you don't like MSN Messenger, try Yahoo Messenger. Have FUN! Dear Webby
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