It must have been in 2004 in Manchester UK when I first time saw a demo of the FlashMeeting. Thank you Friedrich Scheuermann for the invitation and Peter Scott for the demo. FlashMeeting is a videoconference software that works on a Flash player. This means that in 90% of the web browsers you can use it without installing any additional software.
When I saw FlashMeeting the first time I was criticizing it because Flash is not an open standard. This is still true, but today I think using Flash is acceptable in some cases. In the case of videoconferencing using Flash really makes sense.
Now, for more than a year, we have been using FlashMeeting in the European CALIBRATE project. We are mainly using FlashMeeting to coordinate software development of the LeMill with developers in Helsinki, Tallinn, Budapest and Oslo. For LeMill developers we also have a 24/7 IRC channel (#lemill / freenode), mailing lists and a trac website – an enhanced wiki and issue tracking system. FlashMeetings is not replacing any of these tools but is still very important tool in our project communication. Seeing and hearing people are good.
Also related to CALIBRATE project I have been testing FlashMeeting in one online course I am teaching right now. At first we were using the Skype conference call and Skypcast. Both failed. FlashMeeting works and it works well!
FlashMeeting is not a videoconference system in a traditional sense. The one that is speaking is actually always broadcasting her video and audio stream for other participants. All the participants may ask for turns and when you “stop broadcasting” the turn moves automatically for the next in the list. In a teaching and learning setting this works very nicely. There is the risk that your students will expect you (the teacher) to be the only one that is talking. To avoid this I have planned to organize sessions where I have asked already beforehand all the students to prepare a “broadcast” of 5 minutes about some theme. For instance we may read an article and then each student must give a short presentation of the most interesting thoughts in it.
In a way FlashMeeting is doing for videoconferencing what YouTube, Google video and several other video sharing services did for online videos. Videoconferencing and online videos have become acceptable for non-nerds. Both are using Flash.
In a way FlashMeeting is now facing “competition” from Skype and other VoIP systems. In wonder how well FlashMeeting will stand the competition?
I remember that already in Manchester there was some discussion about the possibility of releasing and distributing FlashMeeting server software. I would buy one. This way people could host their own FlashMeetings and stress less the servers of the Open University UK. It would be even better if the FlashMeeting server could be released under Open Source license. I would contribute.
Still, I am very grateful for the Open University UK’s Knowledge Media Institute for providing us with the possibility to use FlashMeeting. Thank you!