In the early 2000s, many of us who were interested in chat reference were flocking to software products that allowed us to synchronize our browser with our users so we could demonstrate how to set up a search in a database or have the user show us what they were doing. It seemed like a great way to advance instructional goals in chat reference interactions. Sadly, the tools that we used for co-browsing (the term we used to describe the process of synchronizing browsers) stopped being useful as more people started using browsers other than Internet Explorer and operating systems other than Microsoft Windows (both of which were required on the user’s end and the librarian’s end for the technology to work). Also, the co-browsing software was getting hamstrung by the increasingly strong security defenses that users were installing on their computers (especially firewall software).
I still use co-browsing from time to time on the QuestionPoint software that my library uses for its chat service, but I only do so if I’m on freely available pages on the open web (licensed content hidden behind our EZ Proxy authentication system almost never works in c0-browsing for us). Lately, I’ve been wondering if there might be alternatives to the co-browsing software. Today, I decided to try a service called Yuuguu; the capabilities of the service vary according to the pricing. If you use the free service, you can:
- do basic audioconferencing
- chat one-on-one
- get 100 minutes of web conferencing
- get 100 minutes of desktop sharing
To get started, you have to download the software and register for an account. If you want to do desktop sharing with someone, you have to send them the URL for this special Yuuguu page: http://www.yuuguu.com/share
After your user is there, they have to enter the unique PIN you’ve been assigned. Once the user does this, you and the user have a chat window where you can exchange messages. As the operator/librarian who has downloaded the Yuuguu application, you have the ability to start the desktop sharing service. Once you click the “web share” button on your Yuuguu application (it sits in its own window, not in your browser), your user will see whatever is on your screen, If you are in PowerPoint, that’s what your user will see. If you switch over to your browser, your user will see that. The user can also take control somewhat and control your computer to a limited extent (maybe just clicking things in your browser window). I created a short video that shows the user’s interface (but not mine, the librarian/operator interface). I hope this explains a bit better what things look like for the user.
I can’t honestly envision being in a chat session in QuestionPoint and then saying to the patron, “Hey, lets start a second chat over in this service, Yuuguu, and then I can show you how to set that search.” That just seems to clunky. But I did want to share my thoughts about how this one app handles desktop sharing, as it might be useful in other instructional settings (maybe a scheduled research consultation with a user who isn’t in your office).
PS: A big thanks to Laura Crossett for agreeing to try this software out with me earlier today.