Community online events – lots to learn

Over the last few weeks we have been preparing for the Bug Squad launch on the 29th of March.  I will be blogging more in detail about the Bug Squad soon, but today I wanted to share with you our experiences with organising an online community event.

This week we run a one hour pre-launch meeting with over 10 members of the squad team. We wanted to ensure we were able to communicate with the team and host a good discussions on the topics for the meeting.

The challenges that we faced were:

  • Diversity of desktop configurations
  • Diversity of available bandwidth per participant
  • Different level of spoken English

Taking these into account, we decided that we needed a chat channel, a voice channel and a screen share channel. We settled for IRC freenode for chat, Skype for Voice and Webex for screen share.

We considered using a solution that would cover these 3 requirements. The only one we had available to us was Webex, but during the internal trial it proved to unstable when overloaded with all these scenarios. So here is what happened:

IRC via Webchat

If you have ever tried to do a remote conference, you will know that it always takes about 15min to get everyone connected. One of the great things about IRC webchat is the low barrier to entry. We had all members connected to the webchat with 2-3 mins, and it remain functional during the whole meeting! This proved extremely valuable to coordinate when some of the other more “advance” channels stop working 😦

IRC (Webchat or not) is broadly supported all desktop configurations and requires very small bandwith, hence an ideal tool for an inclusive setup.


I was very pleasantly surprised by quality of the voice and the ability to handle a large amount of participants, and it is free! We did have some usability problems, mainly due to the fact that the user interface seems radically different across platform. Nevertheless, we got Macs, Linux and Windows talking to each other. The setup time was close to 10 mins.


It took close to 45 minutes but we got there! unfortunately with most of the screen share tools, getting new users to a stable setup is time consuming. We did manage to achieved this, which we hope will make it easier to use it for the Test Day on 29th March.

4 thoughts on “Community online events – lots to learn

  1. Note that native IRC makes use of several ports that need to be opened in firewalls, which is a major downside. The web client of course works around that.

  2. If different operating platforms is an issue for connecting to the meeting, try looking into RHUB ( They have a browser based attendance option that guaranteed attendance for all participants.

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