Archive for the ‘Virtual Teams’ Category

How To: Simple Persistent Google Hangout Virtual Conference Rooms

conference_roomCreate Friendly Named Persistent Google Hangout URLs

A 7 minute read.

This post describes using Google Hangouts for easy virtual meetings by associating a domain or DNS name to a persistent, long-lived, Google Hangout URL.


Upon completing these simple instructions you will be able to access and share an easy to remember DNS name to your persistent Google Hangout.

An example persistent friendly URL:

–> Launches a consistent Google Hangout and everyone will be in the same “virtual” room. <–

Persistent Google Hangouts Use Cases

  • Recurring team meetings
  • “Drop-in” published office hours
  • Create a persistent Hangout for each physical conference room
  • Mix physical and virtual meetings

Google Hangouts is a great distributed team productivity tool for virtual meetings. Since the original launch in Fall 2011 Google has incrementally improved the service and filed down the rough edges. But while steadily improving, Hangouts is still not perfect for organizing recurring or ad-hoc virtual meetings.

We’re accustomed to services like GoToMeeting and Webex which offer admin control panels for scheduling recurring events. In contrast, Google Hangouts has no central meeting control panel. Also, when a group meeting is over, and as the last person exits, the meeting disappears into the ether. Resuming a meeting requires a new invitation and is cumbersome.

The online meeting metaphor should be that of a virtual conference room that mirrors how a physical conference room works. In this way, the meeting organizer only needs to publish the conference location (in our case a DNS name) and allow the attendees to “walk in” (join a Hangout) at their own pace. This is in contrast to how Hangouts work now, requiring the meeting owner to pull each attendee into the meeting.

Our goal is to remove the unnecessary ceremony starting a virtual meeting.

We have found a way to connect a DNS name to a “long-lived” persistent Google Hangout URL. A DNS name is easily remembered and simulates a virtual conference room.

2 Easy Steps

First Step:

1. Create a Google Hangout persistent URL.

Second Step:

2a. Redirect a domain to the persistent URL.

or if you are skilled in DNS management, save money and use a sub domain instead of buying a new domain:

2b. Create a DNS zone for a current domain and use “HTTP Redirect” to connect the DNS name to the URL.

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Abundant Innovation @Sonian: June 2013

Abundant Innovation, Sonian Style – June 2013

I was honored to witness the creativity of the @sonian product development team at our June 2013 All-Team Meet-up. Our tradition the past five years is to hold a 24-hour Codefest where teams self-organize to work on a project they feel passionate about. Nearly all of these passion pursuits benefit Sonian in some way. I’m a lucky CTO / Founder!

For this meet-up 31 people across 9 teams created projects that will help Sonian save money or wow customers with new features. Awards were issued in two categories; Sizzle and Steak. Sizzle for a new customer-facing feature and Steak for an improvement in the behind-the-scenes platform. Each project is highlighted below in their presentation order.


Team: Big Brother (Winner: Sizzle Category)
Project: All your IM are Belongs to us

Vikram, Joel and Arnaud teamed up on a project demonstrating the capability to capture IM conversations using a proxy between the IM client and the server. Their implementation captures all conversations, encrypted or not, for compliance and data mining purposes. This is an important requirement for organizations subjected to regulatory information retention obligations.

The data collection is invisible to the end user because there is no software to install. A few issues still need to be resolved such as SSL certificate management and how to capture mobile device IM conversations. Archiving and analyzing IM data is especially important for the financial sector and other regulated industries.


Team: House of Targaryen
Project: Making Developers Happy

Alan, Josh, Scott and Ubiratan worked on a project to show how Continuous Integration (CI) techniques can improve quality by finding defects faster. This project demonstrated running tests as code is checked into source control. CI automated processes identify problems before the QA team begins their work, alerting the developer quickly before too much time passes.

This project can be rolled into production with just a few more days of work.


Team: Facts and Fun,
Project: Data Analysis for Fun and Profit (and Fun)

David, Raj, Steve and Robert demonstrated a new data management technology with a specialty to manage information that slowly changes over time. This is especially important for new features Sonian plans to roll out later this year.

The practical application is useful for snapshotting corporate directory, email folder coordination and many other use cases. This is also a general support system for data visualizations, meta data, etc. and compliments the use of ElasticSearch. An added bonus is lower operating costs for cloud infrastructure expenses.

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Abundant Innovation – Sonian Summer 2011 CodeFest Delivers Impressive Results

The first quarterly all-engineering code fest completed Tuesday (Aug 16, 2011) evening with 3 winning teams, one dramatic performance, and many laughs.

This post is linked to the Sonian Blog. Joe Kinsella, Sonian VP Engineering, wrote about the CodeFest here.

The entire company was invited to view the presentations and vote for their favorites. The only voting rule was you can’t vote for your own team. The judging was based on three criteria: 1. Impact on solving a Sonian or customer pain point (50%), 2. “Cool-ness” factor (25%), and 3. Presentation style and effectiveness to convey the idea (25%).

Thirteen teams competed, representing the four functional units in the Sonian Engineering organization; SAFE (back-end), Website (front-end), DevOps (systems management) and QA. There were several teams from each group. The themes each team chose ranged from automation, performance measurement, to UI beautification and speed. Each team gravitated toward their “natural” inclinations. The DevOps teams focused on automating manual tasks and removing friction from deployments. The SAFE team (back-end) showcased applying “math” to measuring performance and data classification. The website team looked at speed and a better user experience, and the QA team showed us new ways to think about cost-testing alongside bug testing.

Six teams had a metrics or analytics theme. Two teams focused on user interface improvements, and 4 teams came up with solutions for automation and deployment problems.

Instead of Ernst and Young tallying the votes, our Harvard MBA trained ROI analyst Chris H. stepped in to ensure a fair and accurate accounting.

And thanks to all the non-technical folks who sat patiently through presentations where terms like “latency,” “lazy loading,” “grepping logs” and “foreground queues” were discussed.

Teams chose their presentation order, and the QA team volunteered to go first. Below is an accounting of each presentation with some context on how the idea fits into Sonian’s needs and long-term vision.

Congratulations to all the teams who competed! The next CodeFest is sure to be another interesting event.

Team 1: “You paid what for that …. Export job, Object list request, or ES cluster?”

Andrea, Gopal, Bryan and Jitesh from the quality assurance team got together around an idea to extend testing methodologies into infrastructure cost analysis. In order to maximize the cloud’s economic advantage, the engineering team is always thinking about the cost of software operating a “big data scale” levels of activity. From architecture to implementation, the goal is to infuse “cost conscious” at every level. The QA team came up with a novel idea on this theme.

The proposed idea is to extend the testing framework to set a baseline of feature infrastructure costs, and then measure successive releases against the baseline. A significant cost deviation from the baseline could be considered a design flaw, implementation error or a SEV1 bug. Some sample features with measurable costs would be an import job, export request, or a re-index. Over time the entire app suite could have an expense profile established.

Having QA be an additional “cost analysis layer” in the full development cycle will only help make the Sonian software as efficient as possible.

Bonus points to the team for the most elaborate props and “dramatic performance” used in their presentation.

Read on for details on the twelve other teams

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