When Listening Becomes Important

Today’s video conferencing tools give everyone a voice (and a moving image) in online meetings. Even more, in spatial chat tools like thing.online participants even have the autonomy to form conversations on their own. However, in almost all meeting formats there comes the time where one or a few participants want to speak to all other participants - the many-to-many scenario should shift to a one-to-many or few-to-many scenario. Different tools have found different solutions to this scenario - from the rough “Mute all” button to a special stage room that supports it, and only it.

At thing.online we have worked with the following design principles:

  1. It should work as natural as possible with behaviors we know from in-person meetings (What would we do when we are in a room together?)
  2. It shouldn’t come too technical, we are humans after all. (How can it work without yet another button, can it be spatial?)
  3. It should extend the capabilities of the current experience, not adding a new one in parallel. (What would we add to a big room to make it work?)
  4. While we want to help bringing the attention to the speaker, we also want to retain participant’s autonomy. (Can I whisper to my neighbor while she’s speaking?)

Last week we’ve released Speaker Panel to beta.

Speaker Panel in thing.online

Added to a MeetingSpace, it gives participants the mean to step into a temporary speaker role. Indicated by the avatar tag, the speaker can be heard and seen by anyone in the space. While the noise for the listeners in the main conversation get eliminated, listeners in other conversations can still hear each other, plus the speaker. When the speaker leaves the speaker panel, the previous scenario is recovered.

While it’s a first version, this is close to how we envision to shift fluently between many-to-many and one-to-many scenarios. We’re curious to hear your feedback on this important milestone.

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