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Improving visual feedback for participants

One thing that can be improved with the online whiteboard experience is real-time feedback for whiteboard participants. While the tool makes it easy to people to participate in drawing, you don't know where people are drawing objects on screen. To people viewing, graphics just magically show up. Additionally, while on the whiteboard, although highlighting exists, there isn't a way to just point at things to focus the groups attention on items on the whiteboard.

Perhaps a pointer (or visible marker) identifying a person's mouse movements on the whiteboard before items show up would be a good step in that direction.
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  • Thanks for the suggestion David! I'm not sure what you referred to above by "highlighting", but that's exactly the term we use for pointing out objects on the screen (maybe it's just that the feature doesn't solve your problem yet?). You can make a selection and click "Highlight", and others will see the blue halo around the selected objects. When you modify the selection, the changes already show up with the blue halo; we need to tweak it so the same also happens when you draw something new. We need to refine this feature some more tho.

    There are a few other ways to visually convey the highlighting: e.g. a box (in a unique color like orange) shows up around the highlighted region, or the un-highlighted region gets greyed out (like the "lights out" button on Hulu), etc. But I don't think tracking a mouse is a good idea; for 2 reasons: (i) you then have the notion of a "presenter" and you need to hand control over to others manually each time someone else wants to have their mouse seen, and (ii) the presenter may actually get too conscious about his/her mouse movements and may not want to always broadcast the mouse position.
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  • How about having everyone's mouse visible on the screen at the same time (with different colors). Then you just have to point your mouse at something and talk. You would also be able to see where someone was about to work.
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  • Zohair (Official Rep) July 06, 2009 07:44
    Eric, that's a good suggestion. We'll probably add something like that to AlmostMeet, which is more optimized for interactions like that. For Dabbleboard, your best bet is probably selecting an object and clicking 'Highlight'.
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  • I agree that being able to track the participants' mouse movements would be a huge improvement. When two people work together on a sheet of blank paper they use their pens or fingers to point at things. It's a natural reaction and it's frustrating to have such a good tool and not be able to point at things like you would do with paper. Different colour pointers are a good idea. But it needs to work without having to hand over presenting rights. I don't think the presenter getting conscious about mouse movements is a big problem.
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  • It is imperative to have a pointer.... just imagine standing in front of a whiteboard and being allowed to draw ONLY. You have to able to POINT at the details of the graphics that you have just created. It would also be better to have ONE person drawing at at time. Having the pointer pass from one participant to another would bring some order to the meeting. By all means have an ORDER / CHAOS button to allow all to draw and point at the same time or not.
    I tried Dabbleboard once for a real purpose and the lack of a pointer was VERY obvious. people were drawing little lines and squiggles everywhere and then having to delete them.... It made the meeting difficult.

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE make a simple pointer.... Rory
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  • Zohair (Official Rep) June 02, 2010 17:19
    Rory, our Pro accounts allow you to restrict who can draw, so you can effectively avoid the "chaos" situation of everyone drawing at the same time.

    We don't have a pointer but we do have the 'highlight' functionality (select something and click the 'highlight' button) that's intended for exactly the same purpose. Compared to a pointer it's a little less chaotic, with the tradeoff that it takes more effort to highlight something.
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  • Zohair.... thanks for the response, ......but "highlighting" is NOT the same as pointing. When one is describing what is going on in a diagram it is ESSENTIAL to replace the human finger with something very similar.... and it is not a highlight device. It is necessary to point at details of an object not illuminate the whole thing. Here's hoping....
    Rory
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  • Zohair (Official Rep) June 04, 2010 07:55
    Rory, you're right. The problem is that the mouse pointer very limited compared to the human finger. You can move your hands and fingers, and walk about, but only when you make a specific pointing gesture will people think you're pointing. With a mouse, if you move it mistakenly, or use it to perform actions in Dabbleboard or other apps, you'll end up unintentionally pointing to random things.

    Maybe we should only transmit a pointing action when you click somewhere on the whiteboard. Would that work? Compared to the current highlight functionality it would be faster, and more precise. Though it would still be slower than constantly transmitting your mouse position of course.
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  • hmmm... yes.
    Maybe if you could hold down a key for your pointer to appear and shut off all other mouse activity. Even better if the pointer could rotate to show the direction of movement. ...and disappear when you let go the key. Each participant choosing a colour or style of pointer. It would be interesting also if it could leave a "wake"... a trail that clears after a few moments (adjustable in settings ...of course :) ). When you are not holding down the key you are back to all the existing features.
    For more organised meetings the chairman could hand the right too point and speak to one or more participants at a time (a later update)
    I would prefer a key hold to an activation spot, unless the activation spot turns the mouse clicker into the pointer on/off.
    I am not familiar with all the keyboard shortcuts & combinations of mouse clicks etc.... but I am sure something ergonomic could emerge.

    Are we in danger of getting this improvement?
    Rory
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  • Zohair (Official Rep) June 05, 2010 19:42
    I don't think we should make people hold down a key to point. That requires two hands and is too difficult in my opinion. As for controlling the meeting, that could be done using our editor-control functionality, which we have in the Pro version.

    I thought of another approach too. We could have a hand- or arrow-shaped object on the whiteboard that you have to drag to point. (You can kinda emulate this today too, though you have to draw the arrow yourself.) When a user starts his session, he'll find the color-coded arrow tucked away on the side: as the user drags it, it becomes visible to others. Thoughts?

    Seeing how many people want this, we definitely are looking into implementing it. But I still need to figure out the right user experience.
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  • Zohair...
    I don't see your reply that I recieved by e-mail....?
    Anyway. Yes a dragable arrow would suffice, ....but I don't know what you are doing with your other hand. I am always using keyboard shortcuts while mousing.

    Maybe this dragable ready-made arrow could be made to face the direction of drag? ...and presumably it would be possible to leave it somewhere. ...and maybe go and get another one, ...or other symbols? Would each user have a different colour? could a mouse-over reveal whose arrow it is?

    Look forward to seeing it...
    Rory
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  • Zohair (Official Rep) June 06, 2010 00:18
    Rory, were you expecting an email from me?

    I use keyboard shortcuts too but most users don't, so we need a solution that works well without requiring the keyboard. Plus, even for power users that love keyboard shortcuts, being to able to do something with just one hand is easier.

    I'm thinking of only a single ready-made arrow per user; you won't be able to "get another one" (why would that be useful?). I won't have it change the direction it's facing; I don't think that'll look good, which -I'm guessing- is why our regular mouse arrows don't do it either. But yes, different color per user, and a mouse-over could reveal whose arrow it is.
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  • Great ideas, any chance of knowing whether this can be done now (2011)?
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  • We don't have this planned for a near future release as yet.
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