Posted:  May 13th, 2010 by:  Laura comments:  2
Last week, I had the opportunity to speak about teens, tweens and social networking at the NEO-RLS Youth Services Symposium. One of the newer tools that I mentioned had everyone puzzled–no one had heard of it. That tool is rising in popularity with teens, and it’s called TokBox.
Many of you are probably familiar with Skype, which allows you to have voice and/or video chats with another person. TokBox is kind of like Skype on steroids: you can have chats with p to 20 people. It’s the party line for the 21st century. There is no download to worry about (it’s all web-based). You can also send video messages to people, not just do live chats. Tokbox also can automatically connect to your IM buddies on most major networks, making integrations mostly seamless. You can invite your IM contacts to a video chat directly, without them having to also sign up for an IM account.
What does this mean to me, Laura?
At first glimpse, the thought that may be going through your mind is “Oh boy! Author chats! Online programs!” and the like. I recommend restraint when it comes to using Tokbox for patron-related activities. Firstly, the participant limit (20) is enough to probably scare most libraries off this track. Secondly, if you want the ability to actually moderate the online gathering, you’re going to have to pony up a monthly fee ($9.95/month). Thirdly, this service is very much like Skype–which means that video/audio quality for each participant can vary–a lot. All it takes is a few chat members complaining that the sound is cutting in and out to take a chunk of fun out of the program. Such problems are almost always on the participant’s end, but it can still be disruptive as people attempt to help them iron out issues in the middle of a session.
So, what is Tokbox good for? We, here at OPLIN, have used Tokbox at least a couple of times for meetings of people who are in remote locations. If you’re a member of a group, division, committee or whatnot, and your members have difficulty finding time to get together or travel, you may find that Tokbox is an ideal solution. Yes, each member is going to need a webcam, but those can be bought fairly inexpensively–often for less than a tank of gas these days.
Tokbox can also save video chats/messages, so being able to archive a live, online meeting is a neat function you can take advantage of.
UPDATE: Talk about timing! Just today (5/14/10), Skype announced that they are introducing a group chat beta. However, this will be a premium feature (price not yet announced), not free like Tokbox. Just putting it out there.