Last week I highlighted several of the new features in the recent update to IBM SmartCloud for Social Business. I thought about how some of the features and terminology may initially be confusing to newcomers and seasoned users alike. So this week I’ll discuss three features that are both related and sufficiently different to warrant a closer look, namely Meetings, Events, and Communities Events.
A Web meeting is a relatively new idea that allows people from various parts of the world to come together for a meeting over the Internet. Since its introduction, different types of Web meetings have become popular:
First I’ll briefly provide some background to online meetings and then review the different SmartCloud for Social Business offerings relevant to this discussion. Two types of online meetings have gained in popularity over the past 4 or 5 years.
- Web seminars, more popularly known as webinars, which typically involve one-way communication from speaker(s) to an audience, anonymous or otherwise.
- Web conferences, which typically involve interaction between the presenter and audience, or delegates.
To address this demand, IBM offers several editions of SmartCloud for Social Business that may be purchased separately or in combination.
IBM SmartCloud Meetings is a web meetings service, which supports both types of online meetings, and enables you to:
- Host online meetings.
- Share applications, presentations and documents.
- Enhance team productivity, shorten sales cycles and reduce travel costs.
- Multiple hosts are allowed, with unto 999 participants.
IBM SmartCloud Connections is a set of web-based collaboration services combined with social networking capabilities, and enables you to:
- Collaborate with coworkers, partners, and suppliers.
- Store and share files, and manage projects.
- Access collaboration tools such as dashboards, people, files, activities, instant messaging, online document editing and communities.
- Become a social business.
Connections offers a number of services including Activities, Files, Communities, etc. Communities are groups of people with a common interest, and the Communities service offers a number of widgets to support these groups of people in their collaboration endeavors. From the documentation, “Widgets are self-contained, HTML-based representations of software applications. When you add a widget to a community, you create an association between that community and the widget application.” The underlying application may be another Connections service, such as Files, but configured specifically for the needs of the community. Community Files contains a subset of files, available more widely in Connections, but shared with Community members.
IBM SmartCloud Engage is essentially a combination of Meetings and Connections, offering a corporate social network combined with web conferencing and collaboration capabilities. So in this case what applies to Meetings or Connections, also applies to Engage.
- Only one host is allowed, and unto 199 participants.
IBM SmartCloud Engage Advanced combines Engage with enterprise grade email and calendaring, through SmartCloud Notes (not discussed in this posting). also includes document editing capabilities for MS Office or OpenOffice format files.
So moving on to our discussion regarding Meetings, Events, and Communities Events. Since the update last week, there are two editions of Meetings: Meetings (new) and Meetings (original).
SmartCloud Meetings supports a single meeting space with a unique ID, something like 123-456, or in Meetings (new) 1234-5678. The meeting space may be password protected and has a unique URL or meeting link, such as: https://meetings.mycompany.biz/meetings/join?id=123-456. A meeting host may upload documents and other content to the meeting space at anytime, or the host may remove content at any time. The meeting ID can also be reset before a meeting has started, giving the host a new meeting ID (this does not appear to be available in Meetings (new). Meetings may be offered as lecture-style meetings, whereby the names of participants do not appear in the participant list, but performance is improved if there are a lot of attendees.
Meeting participants may be invited either before the meeting has started, simply by the host copying the meeting link and sending it to participants, or my placing the link in a calendar event and mailing the attendees. Participants cannot join unless a room owner or manager is present.
Meetings support at least two use cases,
- Instant or ad-hoc meetings, whereby the meeting organizer initiates an immediate meeting with a customer or partner.
- Calendared meetings, whereby the meeting organizer organizes the meeting ahead of time.
In both cases the meeting link, or unique URL, would be sent to the invites via email, or instant messaging, or perhaps over the phone.
SmartCloud Events, is a component of SmartCloud Meetings, which allows Events to be scheduled ahead of time. Events use the same meeting engine as Meetings, but are created through the “Schedule a New Event” dialog, where the event organizer is guided through the process with a series of forms:
Basic details may be specified, such as the title, scheduled data and time, as well as a description. A host, along with one or more additional presenters may be specified. An important difference between Meetings and Events is Event Registration. Registration may be configured to allow participants to be approved automatically or manually, and gather information about the participants, such as name, email, or any number of custom fields.
Conference features such as application sharing or audio conferencing may be specified. Event notification and reminder emails may be configured. In any chase the event organizer will receive an email to forward to attendees.
After the Event has been created, it may be Rehearsed, to allow the host to practice the meeting prior to the real event. That way the host can check timing, pre-populate polls, load relevant documents, etc. using the real presentation capabilities of Events/Meetings, without opening it up to everyone. (Remember people can join a Meeting as soon as the host joins.)
So Events support a third use case, of scheduling and preparing an event or conference ahead of time, and vetting attendees through a registration process.
So where do Community Events fit in? Well they don’t really! Despite the name, they are not part of the Meetings service. They are part of Communities service within SmartCloud Connections, or SmartCloud Engage. The SmartCloud for Social Business documentation states, “a community lets people who share a common interest interact with one another.” Communities are made up of one or more widgets. Community Events, usually just called “Events” is one such widget.
Community Events are similar to scheduling meetings from your calendar or email application. Events can be created within your Community to inform members of upcoming meetings, all-day or multi-day events. Community Events may be created by either a Community Owner or a Community Member with author access. Community Events may be added to personal calendars, such as IBM Notes or Microsoft Outlook, as an iCalendar feed. SmartCloud Notes does not otherwise automatically subscribe to, or surface, Community Events.