Yuuguu’s new look and feel

October 15th, 2010 by Alan Mellor, almellor

New look website

Our new blue themed website, with its focus on web conferencing and collaboration

We have a lot of sympathy for the Chilean miners, who were so wonderfully rescued unharmed this week. It must feel utterly amazing to see light again, walk free again, smell fresh air again. One of those things that, plainly, if you weren’t there, you don’t know.

Our far lesser experience here at Yuuguu in the comparatively sunny suburbs of Manchester, UK has also resulted in something emerging: a brand new look and feel for both the Yuuguu website and the Yuuguu Desktop Client. We’re pretty pleased with it. And it does feel like being released from being trapped in a coding-monkey-mineshaft for a good long while.

It’s not all just pretty new graphics, though. We’ve simplified the way you get started using Yuuguu. You now create your account from the Yuuguu website, rather than the desktop client. It’s a subtle change, but it feels better. More people expect to sign up on websites these days, a tribute to how interactive the web has become. Once you download the desktop client, you can now get started straight away with it, as you already have your account.

We’ve also taken the opportunity to explain what it’s all about a bit more clearly. Yuuguu is about web conferencing and collaboration. And we’ve created a snappy little video to show what you see when you use it.

New look Desktop App

Well, be rude not to, wouldn’t it?

We’ve got a whole series of improvements to the desktop app planned, of which this is the first. After listening ( on twitter, and getsatisfaction ) to customers wanting a ‘less clunky’ and more appealing looking interface, we set to work.

Again, the change is a little bit more than just nicer graphics and new colours. Whilst at this point we have only made some minor tweaks to the workflow, we think you’ll like them. One change we have made is to drop the ‘Web Share’ wording completely. Nobody understood it – whereas everyone seems to get ‘web conferencing’. We’ve made that function easier by simply calling the button ‘Start’.

A nice workflow change I think is the tabs for Recent Chats rather than the old style ‘push-down panel’. The tab is at the bottom of the view. This just seems more obvious, and a bit cleaner visually in how it works. It also frees up vertical space.

Currently, the new client is only available to those creating new accounts (from today).

Hope you like it!  Whatever your thoughts – good, bad, indifferent – you know where to find us. And if you don’t, the information is now clearly on our new home page!

Till next time -

Take care from Al


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Yuuguu: Officially more popular than Lichtenstein

October 11th, 2010 by Alan Mellor, almellor

According to site Sharenator, Yuuguu is more popular than Lichtenstein.

Well, okay. I’ve taken a bit of artistic license there. Well, a lot, actually.

The site says that according to Alexa traffic stats – estimates – then the Yuuguu web site has more visitors per day than Lichtenstein has people living in it.

This is not exactly the same thing as saying ‘more people come to Yuuguu-land for their holidays as it is such a nice place’. And it turns out Lichtenstein is a nice place. It would appear to contain a picture-perfect Disneyesque castle:

Lichtenstein Castle courtesy of Andreas Tille / Wikimedia Commons



So it’s neither particularly accurate, nor particularly official. And it’s comparing apples with oranges, so to speak. But it did catch my eye as being quite interesting!


The rather splendid photo is courtesy of WikiMedia commons user Andreas Tille. More thanks to Yuuguu’s very own @phillColeman for finding the article.


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Too busy? Let yuuguu help!

October 1st, 2010 by Alan Mellor, almellor

Ever had one of those days where you’re busy, but people just won’t leave you alone? I sure have.

Here’s how Yuuguu can help.


Video will appear here.





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The high flying world of Private Fly

September 24th, 2010 by Alan Mellor, almellor

It’s always great to meet up with people who are using Yuuguu as a key part of their business. Better still if it is quite an interesting, high-profile business. And if you get to spend a day at an exciting place, with great people, in front of a camera – fantastic!

This is yours truly spending a day with PrivateFly.

Based in St. Albans, PrivateFly link up people who need to fly on private jets with private jets who need to fly people on them. Result. Owners Adam Twidell and Carol Cork explain what they do, and the part Yuuguu plays in their high flying world (sorry – didn’t spot the dreadful pun until I’d typed it. But left it in. Double sorry).


Yuuguu meets Private Fly produced by Greek Bloke Productions.


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Choosing a secondary school

September 17th, 2010 by Alan Mellor, almellor

Hard to believe it, but a whole decade of my life has raced past … never to return … and I’m looking at finding a secondary school for my big girl.

I’m confronted with the dispiriting facts that (a) my local council choice form counts for very little, and (b) schools, great as they are, never fully prepare you for your life ahead anyway.

Yet how could they? The stuff I get paid to do these days hadn’t been invented when I was at school. And before @phillcoleman gets all ‘That was “Fire” and “The Wheel”, Al’, I’m talking about the PC, mobile, and this t’interweb thing I am typing on. I rather hope to get big girl a school like the fantastic one I went to, that taught you ‘stuff’, but also tried to teach you how to learn, and experiment, and have some confidence.

And that led me to thinking about this blog’s title: ‘the Future of Work’. What actually will be the future of work for my big girl?

It’s unlikely to be manufacturing if she remains in the UK. And a good deal of our services sector has had the wind knocked out of its sails as well. Profitable banks? Anyone remember those?

Looking at her primary school education to date, Eco issues are set to become hugely important to this particular generation of millenials. Whilst it has been news to this Gen-X’er that we are trashing the planet quicker than it can sustain being trashed, big girl has been practically brought up with that message.

Obligatory plug for Yuuguu ‘Were already doing our bit to cut travel’ aside, I wonder if this generation will be the one to finally reach that tipping point as described so well by Mr Gladwell. That, ok, so we never used to do remote working all that much, because … well, we never had, but now there are some more pressing matters at hand.

  • Would I do my old commute to work 8 miles to Manchester town centre each way, each day if petrol cost 25 pounds a litre?
  • Would I park my car in the City Centre if the projected 9 billion worldwide populous had made city centre real estate so scarce and expensive that parking contracts were five figures a year?



Using remote tools like screen sharing, telephone conferencing and instant messages is certainly a way of reducing the carbon footprint of transporting people in metal boxes. It cuts it to that of making the electricity needed to power the computers and internet. And things might well get more interesting here in big girl’s working life; I will not be surprised to see much more creative, local solutions to generating small amounts of electricity -just enough to power a mobile internet browser on a phone, or a notebook. Potentially, this could be done by completely clean sources, depending on local conditions: solar, wind, water, thermal.

The development of a measurably greener alternative to business travel might just be the push needed to drag remote working fully into the mainstream.

What do you think?

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Better Teleconferencing

September 10th, 2010 by Alan Mellor, almellor

There is one depressing similarity between office work and remote collaboration. You can certainly make your meeting arrangements more efficient. But you’re just as likely to have a dull, pointless waste of everybody’s time if you don’t have a think about what you want to achieve.

I read an interesting link about this on WebWorkerDaily.com: Ten Top Teleconferencing Tips

Great tips. We’ve found at Yuuguu that when you collaborate, talk is important. It gives context to the other things you might be doing – screen sharing, sending links, remote control and so on.

Get the numbers right with Yuuguu

What’s the easiest way to ruin your meeting before it starts? Make it really hard to join. This was the first point in the article: everyone in the call needs to know the number to dial into, and any other access codes they will need.

With Yuuguu, our Meeting Scheduler makes this fast – and easy to get the details accurate. Follow the wizard, copy the results to your clipboard then send them around in your favourite way – be that email, twitter or carrier pigeon.

Welcome interruptions

I found the point about ‘allowing interruptions’ really interesting.

I’ve recently attended a conference at Durham University. Delegates and speakers alike used twitter clients to get interruptions projected on a wall using twitterfall and a conference hashtag.

Initially, this felt odd. I could almost see the horn rimmed spectacles of my old teacher at first, shouting ‘Mellor! No talking in class!’ But it did prove helpful.

Every now and then, a break was made in the presentation to look through the tweets and discuss any important issues arising. So, even better than an interruption, this technique allows deferred interruptions.

And yes, we’ve had this feature for quite some time in Yuuguu. Our screen sharing goes side by side with a group Instant Message discussion.

During our in-house meetings, we tend to have always used this feature for deferred interruptions. It can get a little out of hand with off-topic stuff, but I think overall I would recommend you give it a try.

As a bonus, a deft cut-and-paste from our chat window provides everyone with a handy transcript of the points raised.

Al’s Extra Rules for Extra Successful Meetings

I would add a few more Al’s Rules

  • Al’s Zeroth Rule: if you have nothing to discuss, don’t run the meeting
  • if you’ve got nothing to say, say nothing
  • if you disagree, do speak up! You might save us from ourselves. It feels awkward to some people to go against the flow – but what if you’re the only one present who can spot the ‘obvious’ flaw? We’ll thank you later!



Update: Even more great tips for being on a teleconference from someone who should know: Andy Pearce, CEO of teleconference company PowWowNow. Well worth a read – I particularly like the ‘Stand Up’ one. That definitely works for me.




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It’s nice to be able to do this

September 3rd, 2010 by Alan Mellor, almellor
Video will appear here.

I really liked one of the mornings earlier this week.

Fresh coffee and bacon sandwich in hand, I went upstairs to my office, ready to switch the computer on for another day’s work. I took up my little lad with me – mostly to give mum a break for a few minutes before I started work!

He promptly grabbed my headset, and proceeded to pretend to be dad at work. Good lad!

I thought that this is a really nice thing for me personally that yuuguu gives me. I’m a remote worker, so I get to not only claw back my commute time (typically one to one and a half hours each way in my previous tech jobs), but my little boy gets to see me from time to time during the day. He sees me at work. Quite a bit of that is done talking with colleagues using the headset. I tend to be involved in pair programming and aspects of marketing/customer support. And the boy has obviously picked up on this.

It’s nice to not only be able to spend a bit more time with him, but nice that he gets to see what I do for a living; as Dad, I definitely want to set him the example that the world does not owe you a living, you have to earn your way by providing value to others. It’s really nice that he can see some of that at home, as well as just the purely family stuff.

Not sure about the advice he is giving down the headset though. But then again, if you were to ask @phillcoleman, he might just say that little Jakey was making more sense than I normally do ;-)

Have a good weekend, all!

Until next time …

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Five tips for your virtual team

August 27th, 2010 by Alan Mellor, almellor

We’ve worked as a virtual company since 2006 at Yuuguu.  It is different working as a virtual team as compared to working in an office – but we’ve learned how to adapt.

Here are five tips that I’ve observed have been useful in keeping the team running well.

1. Keeping moving with Show and Tell

It’s important for projects to keep moving forward. We do this by holding show and tell meetings. The whole team holds a web conference, and using Yuuguu technology, each of us will share our computer screens and show off the latest feature – or problem – to the group.

Doing this creates a sense of urgency and forward motion. It ties in well with our project management approach of setting small, achievable milestones. It’s also invaluable for rapid feedback, support and advice from the people we work with.

2. Hold a regular meeting

I would normally discourage this in an office: for goodness’ sake, there are enough dull, pointless meetings in the world without holding more. The conventional wisdom would be to only meet when there is something to discuss that requires some outcome: ACID – Action, Clarification, Information or Decision.

But working virtually, there is always a point in having a regular meeting – and that is simply to get that human contact, and build that team spirit. Whether it is a project-critical ‘acid’ type meeting, or more of a watercooler chat, we find that meeting once a week on yuuguu keeps us moving together.

3. The Virtual Pint

I must do a full post on this one day. Basically, we use yuuguu at the end of a week to socialise. If your team doesn’t socialise reasonably well, it isn’t going to work particularly well. And the added alone-ness that can come from working in a home office will only amplify that in a negative way. So socialise. Build that right in to the fabric of running your virtual team – it is actually essential for the running of your business!

4. Have an ‘Open Messenger’ policy

We run yuuguu at all times as we work together. If one of us is particularly busy, we use the ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature to let the team know about that. Otherwise, the ‘open messenger’ policy is the equivalent of an ‘open door’ office policy. We encourage each other to ask questions, ask for help, offer help – just get involved.

Often, I can ask Mike a PHP question, or Neil a marketing question and get an answer faster than I could google it. And of course, the answer comes through the filters of their practical experience, making the most of the wisdom in our team.

It’s all about creating a culture where helping one another is encouraged, and knowledge is shared. Again, that is all about minimising the sense of isolation that can arise in a virtual team.

5. Enjoy the flexibility

I’ve read a lot of articles on managing virtual teams that essentially suggests using time tracking and monitoring tools. I think that’s a load of rubbish, borne out of a lack of experience – and fear.

What you are after is *getting stuff done* not *getting hours clocked*. By using the four tips above, you get the visibility – in a collaborative, empowering way – that you need to succeed. So knowing precisely where staffer X was at 16:13 last tuesday is neither here nor there – the real question is ‘can we ship that work item?’.

Virtual work is really good at empowering people to get stuff done AND create flexibility during the day. Enjoy it! It certainly makes for a better working environment, a better team, and better end results. With employee loyalty increased as a free bonus.


What tips would you share from your virtual teams?



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Volunteers and Virtual Teams

August 20th, 2010 by Alan Mellor, almellor

Helping Hands: photo by Penny Matthews via stock.xchng
Voluntary work is the best sort of win-win situation there is. Voluntary organisations get skilled help to achieve their aims free of charge. This keeps donation requirements down. Volunteers get an outlet for skills and interests they love doing, but don’t normally fit into their day job. And the satisfaction of being part of a team making a positive difference in the world.

It struck me that forming virtual teams – teams that collaborate over the internet, using tools like yuuguu – solve a lot of problems with volunteer based projects. If you manage volunteer projects, it would be worth your while to see if this can work for you.

Why?

A virtual team solves three barriers to being able to use a willing volunteer: time, place and (of course) money.

Work with volunteers where they live

By using your social media and traditional advertising skills, you can probably hook up with people who would love to volunteer on your project.

But what if they live far away?

If your project involves some aspect of digital work – designing, producing websites, videos, copy, graphics – then virtual work solves this problem directly. You no longer need to have your volunteer sit in your office to use a computer provided by you. You can direct and review work using screen share. You can transfer files electronically. You can chat using Instant Messages. It’s not uncommon for entire projects to be done in this way – just as we work here at Yuuguu.

Doing this opens your project up to a far wider pool of volunteers; with geography no longer an issue, you can work with anyone willing and able, wherever they live.

Work without a travel budget

A lot of project time – and budget – gets eaten up in meetings. It’s important to spend this money wisely at the best of times, and even more when you are a trustee of a charity. Ok, so you simply cannot build a well in a remote country without getting people, materials and tools on site. But you certainly can hold the design reviews of the engineering drawings virtually. And hold progress show and tell meetings virtually.

There are many possibilities for real world projects to work virtually. The well team could snap progress on bore hole excavation on a camera phone, and use screen sharing to show the remote project manager. Instant Message chat and telephone conferencing can bring together remote construction workers, the on-base project manager and the design consultancy to iron out the unexpected.

By taking the view of doing what meetings you can virtually, you can maximise the budget spent on the real objectives. A massive help – not to mention a right and proper PR boost – for any charitable organisation.

Work whenever your volunteers can

Another huge benefit is this: your volunteers will generally have day jobs. These jobs will clearly have first priority on their time; after all, you aren’t putting food on their table. So volunteers can be limited in when they can work. By forming a virtual team, you can reduce the burden of working at different times. Certainly, using yuuguu, you can send instructions and questions to volunteers who are offline, and they can pick these up when they come online. As soon as they do, yuuguu ‘Presence Indicators’ – traffic lights that say when you are working – will help you catch up quickly and efficiently. Much more so than email.

By opening up this flexible working, you can again include more volunteers than before – people who would love to help, but simply cannot work during your normal office hours.

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Rain

August 13th, 2010 by Alan Mellor, almellor
Video will appear here.




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