Maxing Out Lync Online – a bit of fun

MaxOutLyncOnline
Update 25 Feb:

Max Out Lync – The first meeting and lessons learned

Thank you to the 75 people attended throughout the course of the meeting.  We learned much about the limits of a Lync Online meeting. Attendees participated in some great discussion about the experience of the meeting from different devices, browsers and apps.  My apologies for the quality of the meeting recording. I analyse the reasons for this later in this post.

 

Perception of the meeting, as the active Presenter

As the presenter, I planned to run a number of the Lync meeting features simultaneously during the meeting. The laptop I used is 6 year old Toshiba A300, 2.4Ghz dual core with 4GB of RAM.  For most of the meeting, my Lync software was doing the following:

  • Sharing one of my desktops
  • Sharing my video
  • Running the presenter tools
  • Recording the meeting
  • 5 programs open

Being the active presenter, I experienced slow performance and unresponsiveness at times. I believe that recording the meeting took up a lot of computing resource, sometimes making my controls unresponsive. So as the active presenter, the experience ranged from good to poor.

I think that the laptop did well to share the content in the meeting and display the video from other attendees who had their cameras on. But it struggled to make a good recording.

Lesson – If you are hosting a meeting and you have a colleague attending who won’t be presenting, give them presenter status so they can record the meeting. This will split the burden of recording and presenting between two computers, hopefully giving a better experience for the presenter.

Connection experiences from different devices, browsers and platforms

It is common for some of the attendees to have trouble seeing the presented content the first time they connect. Leaving and re-join the meeting often helps to correct this.

Some people who tried to log into the meeting from two devices, signed in with their Office 365 accounts successfully. Others experienced being disconnected from the first device they signed into.  The message they received was “You have been disconnected because you have joined from another PC.” There was no trouble joining the meeting from two devices  when choosing to join as a guest.

This is a short recording of a meeting experience using the Lync App for Windows, running on a Surface RT. It was recorded while attending a Microsoft Ignite Webinar.
The Windows Phone Lync app experience is said to be very similar.

 

A few attendees of Max Out Lync shared their experiences of this meeting.

  • Mark M
    • I joined via Lync2013 client on WIN8 PC from Milwaukee, WI.  All features worked great- Audio/ video and presentation worked as expected.
  • Thomas:
    • Joined using Lync Web App on Win8.1; Lumia 925; Lync App on Win8.1.
    • Overall the Lumia worked best! The Lync App got kicked out half way through the meeting and the Web App lost the Meeting Content. Audio was pretty good throughout the meeting! The Lumia had all Content and good audio/video
  • Laura:
    • joined using Lync desktop client;
    • switched to iPhone app during meeting and worked really well, although at first couldn’t turn the speakerphone on;
    • also had video/mic on during meeting and worked well;
    • didn’t experience any issues.
  • Joshua Borges
    • Joined from an Dell XPS notebook and Windows Phone.
    • “Darrell, My Windows phone 8.1 ran out of battery power and the Lync App with video was just too much for the USB charger.” – Comment left in LinkedIn.
  • Fernando
    • Lync 2013 client and Lumia 1020 Windows Phone
    • Initially could not see the shared desktop. When the presenter shared the content again,
    • See lots of errors when sending IM. Some of the participants did not receive his message.
    • From his Windows Phone did not see the shared desktop. Fernando’s impression was that phones could not see shared desktops, but would see a shared PowerPoint presentation when it is uploaded to the Lync meeting.
  • Andrew Morpeth
    • Joined from Desktop and Nokia 925.
    • With Wifi off, mobile data only, Andrew didn’t see any presented content.
    • With Wifi on, meeting content, the shared desktop was visible.
    • Experience from the Windows Phone was the same as with the Windows 8 app. You need to swipe between
      • an IM screen,
      • a gallery view of attendees and their video (if turned on)
      • Meeting content
  • Ken Kochiss
    • Samsung Note – Android
      • Great sound. Video staggered. Active speaker swaps. No presentation content.  Ken talked in the Lync meeting from his Android to tell us about his experience.
    • Laptop
      • Dell Latitude – Meeting content was visible. Audio and others cameras were displayed.

Everyone was a presenter

How did this happen? I created appointment using the Lync Web Scheduler (sched.lync.com) The meeting was set to allow everyone to bypass the lobby, people from my company were set as presenter. This meant that people could enter the meeting space long before the organizer was in the meeting. They could upload content, create a whiteboard and change settings.

It became apparent later on in the meeting that “Everyone is a Presenter” with a large group was a bad idea, especially from a quality of experience perspective. For this experiment, it was all about testing the limits. But for regular meetings, only use Everyone is a Presenter in meetings with up to five attendees. Ten if you all work well together.

Attendees of this meeting began to explore features that they may not have seen before, because they had never been a presenter. This ranged from taking control and becoming the active presenter, to activating a poll that was going to be shared later, or turning off IM for all attendees.

One interesting effect was that someone turned on the Q & A feature which wasn’t working within my Office 365 account beforehand, and didn’t work after.

Lesson. In large meetings, make everyone enter as an attendee.   Elevate people to presenter status as required. Or only allow attendees from your business to enter the meeting as presenters. The key is, limit the number of presenters.
Small collaborative meetings are the best scenario for making all attendees presenters.

How many video callers?

Video on its own worked well. About 10 of the 37 attendees turned on video. The active speaker changed between whoever was speaking and the gallery view showed the video of other attendees who had it turned on.
When we stopped sharing the desktop, the video performance improved. If you think about it, displaying a shared desktop is like a large video camera that captures and shares a lot of graphic information. So it’s expected that if a presenter shares their desktop and attendees video is turned on, the performance of the meeting decreases.

One thing that was clear while reviewing the meeting recording was the lag between video and my voice as I presented. This is probably due to the number of features I was attempting to use simultaneously, during the meeting. The Lync meeting recording feature seemed to struggle. It captured everything. But when the meeting was saved and published, the different streams of meeting content (IM, Video, Audio, Shared Desktop & content) didn’t always match up in the recording. But the recording may not be a representation of what the attendees experienced as some attendees report a good experience with the occasional lag between video and voice.

Lesson. If the purpose of the Lync meeting is to have a face to face discussion with all attendees, use video on its own. When you need to present or share a screen, ‘mute’ the attendees video and your own if you have to. This will increase the Lync meeting performance and give a better experience for the attendees as they focus on the shared content.
Following the presentation, you can set the Lync meeting to allow attendee video to have face to face discussion again.

Shared Notebook

Rather than use PowerPoint slides to present the meeting content, a OneNote notebook was displayed on my shared desktop. Notebook pages were used as slides, beginning with a page for the outline of the meeting and a list of the questions we hoped to answer. Each of the following pages contained a question and guidance for how to answer. The view only Guest link was published on the blog post before the meeting. The Guest Contributor link was shared during the meeting, for attendees to write their feedback about how they connected to the meeting what their experience of the meeting content was like.

Using Guest Contributor access to the notebook meant it could only be edited within a browser. But this was sufficient for meeting attendees to write their feedback. This worked well and helped me to gather attendee contributions that would normally have been missed.
Mark M, Thomas and Laura left feedback in the notebook. It is shared in the “Connection experiences … ” section above.

Lesson. Share the Guest Contributor link early in the meeting. Check with attendees if they have opened the notebook successfully and if anyone needs a little more help connecting. Have one of your co-presenters help using IM while you continue with the meeting content.

Holding Q & A

We were unable to make use of the Q & A feature for the Lync meeting. As mentioned earlier, the feature hasn’t been turned on for my Office 365 account and I will be investigating this.

The Q & A feature mutes IM conversation and opens another section for attendees to enter their questions. Only presenters can respond to the questions. This is a good way to capture questions during the meeting. Using the standard IM window to capture questions can be difficult to review the questions at the end of the meeting. Attendees will often write comments in the IM and fill it with general chit chat. Using the Q & A feature, at the end of the meeting, the presenter can switch to the Q & A section and list the questions without the chit chat.

If you want to use Q & A to capture questions but still allow general IM in the meeting, you need to

  1. Turn Q & A on – which mutes the standard IM window
  2. Then unmute attendee IM.

This will leave both the Q & A and the standard IM open.

Conclusion

We learned some good lessons about large meetings, even though this meeting didn’t reach 250 attendees. In an interesting twist, it was announced during the Lync Conference keynote speech held the same day as Max Out Lync, that large Lync Online meetings will be coming soon. Large, to the tune of 2000 users!
In our next attempt to max out Lync, we’ll put these principles to use and discuss the experience.

[signoff]

 

UPDATE 16 Feb: The date, time and location are set for this adventurous little experiment.

Goal

To run an informal, open-to-anyone Lync Online meeting with 250 attendees:

  • Joining from a range of devices, browsers and platforms.
  • Attendees turn on their video, we run a presentation, shared OneNote notebook, Q & A and polls.
  • Hold an open discussion to find some answers to some pressing questions about Lync Online.

When

Tuesday, 18th Feb, 8am (Las Vegas / PST) In Your Timezone?
Will Lync Conference 2014 (#lyncconf14) attendees be able to join this online meeting, during their breakfast?

Where

Online at https://meet.lync.com/webstertech/darrell/LJ37HJK9
Save meeting to your calendar (ics file)

Note: This online meeting will be recorded for the purpose of sharing the results with anyone who is interested in the performance of Lync Online meetings.

How to Join

From your browser
Learn more about how to join from a web browser in this blog post – “Lync Web App – The ‘join from browser’ experience

From tablet app, mobile app or desktop
Windows 8Windows Phone / iPadiPhone / Android

Meeting Notebook
This is a Guest Reader link. A Guest Contributor link will be shared during the meeting.

Questions

Add your question using this survey or in the comments at the end this post.

  • What is the experience like for attendees, when there are many attendees in the meeting?
  • Just how many people can turn on their video in a Lync Online meeting?
  • How many presenters can you have in a meeting?
  • How well does a shared OneNote notebook work with a large online meeting?
  • How do you hold an effective Q & A session in a large meeting?
  • What is the experience really like for attendees using different OS platforms, browsers, tablet and mobile apps? We’ll ask attendees within the meeting to tell us.

I look forward to seeing you there. Let’s see if we can reach 250!

[signoff]

 

Original Post – 13 Feb

Who is interested in helping me test Lync Online? I want to max-out a Lync Online meeting with participants in an informal get-together.  Let’s try turning on video and test Lync’s performance with as many participants as we can. We may be able to get a presentation from one of our Office 365 MVPs during the testing.

Join from whatever device you have on you; from a web browser, Lync desktop client, or Lync app for Windows 8Windows Phone / iPhone / Android

Learn more about how to join from a web browser in this blog post – “Lync Web App – The ‘join from browser’ experience

Add your comment to this blog post if you’d like to join. I’ll follow up with another post that includes the Lync Online meeting details, once I get an indication of how many people would like to participate.

There is another motive for this little experiment, other than ‘fun’.
I had an idea while thinking about Lync Persistent Chat. I wanted to start a place where people could visit and ask questions and discuss Microsoft Office 365.  I envisioned that at a Persistent Chat room could make advice more accessible. Persistent Chat is not currently available with Lync Online / Office 365.

Thinking bigger, I imagined running a Telethon style event using Lync Online.
A ‘Lyncathon’ event.
An Office 365 Lyncathon event would be a good opportunity to chat freely with people, hearing their feedback, answering questions, schedule some speakers from across the globe. Cover topics in each of the Office 365 service areas, presentations of case studies, showcases of solutions and third party tools/services. But all the while, attendees chatting freely about Office 365.
The idea is to have the Lyncathon event run for 24 hours out of the same Lync Online meeting. Attendees will be able to join in at any time during the 24 hours.

Clearly, the idea is in concept phase. We may find that it isn’t technically possible. Which is why I invite you to join this bit of fun.
Let me know if you’d like to join in.

[signoff]

2 thoughts on “Maxing Out Lync Online – a bit of fun

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