Zakim Feature Alternatives

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See also: WebExBestPractices

The W3C Zakim teleconference bridge and irc bot together provide a teleconferencing environment that is closely integrated into W3C infrastructure. The Zakim bridge hardware itself is lacking some features that are of increasing importance; specifically VoIP (SIP) connections and local access from outside the US.

As we contemplate moving to a new generation of teleconferencing/collaboration services it is useful to enumerate the features most often used in the Zakim environment and identify which components need support from the teleconferencing service itself.

Features provided exclusively by the irc bot

The verbs associated with floor control and agenda management are independent of the specific teleconference service itself and can be used in any meeting, including in-person meetings where no teleconference exists:

Floor Control

Zakim will help track a queue of participants wishing to speak.

q+, queue+
q-, queue-
q? queue?
queue=
ack, recognize
close the queue
[re]open the queue
give <name> the last word
allow speakers <n> minutes
stop timing
ignore the queue
track the queue

One feature in this set provides additional function when the bot has access to the teleconference service: if the participant's connection is muted, ack will attempt to unmute the connection.

Agenda Tracking

Zakim will help track agenda items requested while a meeting is in progress.

agenda+
agenda-, item-, drop agendum, forget agendum
agenda?, list the agenda
agenda <n> = <text>
agenda order
take up agendum
move to agendum
current agendum?
close agendum
skip agendum
allow this agendum <n> minutes
clear the agenda
read agenda
save agenda
remind
ignore the agenda
track the agenda

Features provided exclusively by the hardware

The following key sequences are processed by the bridge directly with no intervention from or communication with the bot:

61#
60#
*0

The (DTMF) keycodes to mute, unmute, and call an operator are features of the particular teleconference system.

Alternatives

As provided by the teleconference system. Some systems provide muting functions only via a Web interface and rely on local mute buttons on the user's device.

Features that depend upon bot access to the hardware

The following verbs depend in part or in entirety on an interface between the bot and the teleconference service. As the bot is currently implemented these will not work at all without such a connection:

+<name>
-<name>
mute <name>
unmute <name>
who is muted?
who is here?
who is on the phone?
who is talking?
list attendees
is <name> here?
<name> has <others>
<another> is with <name>
<another> has just arrived in <name>
<someone> has just left <name>
who is in <name>?
<oldname> is <newname>
I am <name>
nick <irc-nick> is <name>
call
drop, disconnect
pick a scribe, pick a victim
41#
40#

Attendance information, irc nick association with a conference connection, raising or lowering one's hand to speak, and scribe selection all depend upon knowing who is present in the teleconference. Zakim bot obtains this information from the teleconference service.

this conference is <name>
this conference will be <name>
move <name> to here
what conference is this?
what is the code?
list conferences

The verbs to associate an irc channel with one of possibly many active teleconferences are a prerequisite to the other hardware-related functions.

room for, space for

Similarly, the verb to schedule an adhoc ("instant") meeting requires access to the teleconference service scheduler.

Alternatives

Most teleconference systems provide a Web interface to identify and monitor callers and mute or unmute connections. Some systems reserve the capability to mute or unmute other connections to a "host". Some systems limit conferences to just one participant with the "host" role at a time.

All teleconference systems provide some ad-hoc meeting facility of their own via a Web interface.

Zakim-bot does not currently recognize the "present:" and "present+" signals used in irc to update attendance information for the record. This would be a simple change to make to the bot and would enable the pick a scribe and list attendees verbs.

Unified Calendar

The unified W3C teleconference calendar is functionally distinct from the teleconference hardware. The Zakim teleconference system has a vendor-supplied scheduling package that AdminReq uses to enter teleconference requests. The W3C teleconference calendar relies on read access to the database that is part of this vendor-supplied scheduling package.

Alternatives

The W3C teleconference calendar backend is unique to the particular scheduling database. It could be re-written for a different teleconference system provided the system allows access to the data.

Replication of the schedule data outside of the native scheduler used for a given teleconference service would be possible but would be error-prone.