By Debra Donston  |  Posted 2002-07-01 Print this article Print

-World Testing"> Real-World Testing

the eval took place at the pyle center, the UW-Extensions distance education and conference center, in Madison.

During the three days, eWeek Labs and evaluators from the UW System and other academic organizations, government, commercial and financial institutions tested the nine systems accessibility, ease of use, functionality, performance and overall ability to facilitate effective virtual meetings. Ten evaluators, including eWeek Labs analysts, were in attendance at The Pyle Center, logged in to the meetings separately while a central system was projected to the conference room.

Other judges logged in to the meetings from as many as 10 locations (including one in Canada). We were therefore able to gauge the virtual meeting systems ease of use, invasiveness, security and performance across a variety of client setups.

However, in the end, it came down to pricing structure—appropriately so, given the reason for evaluating these systems in the first place. Unfortunately, pricing for most of the services we tested was confusing at best and prohibitive at worst.

"As far as the pricing goes, it seems like theyre all trying to make the pricing as complicated as possible so you cant compare them," said Bill Whipple, administrator and database computer support specialist at UW-Extension. Whipple was one of the judges logged in to the virtual meeting demonstrations from The Pyle Center.

Judy Brown also judged the products from The Pyle Center and agreed that a more common formula for pricing out these systems would be helpful in gauging their value.

"I would like to see some sort of a set baseline," said Brown, the UW Systems emerging technology analyst and an eWeek Corporate Partner, in Madison. "Its all about the balance between cost and functionality."

Once a meeting system is brought on board, corporate culture kicks in and often has to be overcome. People used to meeting face to face may need significant time to adjust to reading emoticons rather than facial expressions and body language.

Gannett Co. Inc. IT Architect Gary Gunnerson logged in to the test sessions from Gannett offices in McLean, Va. Gunnerson, an eWeek Corporate Partner, noted during the testing that even the vendor reps acting as presenters missed some of the cues.

"We have little icons and buttons to press, and the first thing that happens is that everyone mutes us so they cant hear us," Gunnerson said. "Then they ignore all the little icons. Presenters really need to pay attention to that. If you want to have a virtual meeting, you have to pay attention to that feedback."

Executive Editor Debra Donston can be reached at

Other Articles in this eValuation:
  • Striving to Make a Mark
  • eVal Scorecard: Virtual Meeting Collaboration
  • VOIP Cuts the Cost of Web-Based Meetings


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