10 votes

Trio | Social video optimized for threes

9 comments

  1. [2]
    pallas
    (edited )
    Link
    (Edit: After looking at the length and tone of this, I should probably note that I am an academic who approaches criticism from what I think could be called a somewhat traditional academic way,...
    • Exemplary

    (Edit: After looking at the length and tone of this, I should probably note that I am an academic who approaches criticism from what I think could be called a somewhat traditional academic way, which can often end up sounding hostile. I don't mean to dismiss the idea, or thinking about different ways of arranging online conversations; if I did, I would do so by not commenting.)

    As you seem to be posting this to judge interest: I think that either I don't understand, or I don't agree, with the triadic concept. There seem to be two possible ways to understand it:

    One would be that you are arguing the intentional limitation to groups of three is optimal for social conversations in general. I'm extremely sceptical. Far from being a way to communicate in a ‘natural and fluid way,’ the limitation feels as though it would be very contrived and constraining. Natural, in-person conversations do not rigidly conform to having either three participants, or a visible absence of three participants, at all times: they grow and shrink, and at no time, ideally, feel as though there is the wrong number. You correctly note that video calls often lack a good expression of subtle body language, but this feels to me more frequently to be a problem of cameras, audio, connection quality, lag, and fundamental aspects of video calls, not the number of people in a call, so I don't see how this system would address the problem of body language at all. Even assuming that three people in a video conversation is ideal for body language, it doesn't seem that this would offer anything better than a normal system with three people, except, here, any need to include a fourth person would involve moving to another system. What does this offer for three-participant calls that three-participant calls in other systems don't have?

    This raises, too, an important problem of what an ideal conversation is. I would argue that a conversation is made ideal by its participants and content first, and its arrangement second. In order to have the ideal participants and content, sometimes the arrangements must be sacrificed: a poor connection with a vital contributor to the conversation, a chair wedged awkwardly at an overfilled table­­, a few people scattered across an empty room. This idea seems to pursue the opposite: in pursuit of ideal arrangement, it sacrifices flexibility of participants. A four-person conversation should not be compared to a three-person conversation only in quality of body language: rather, the quality of body language must be judged against ripping out all contributions of one of the participants. I don't think this is a good exchange. Like those chairs moved out of place, it seems instead like a constraint that people will primarily want to find ways around, rather than suffering under them for the sake of an ideal arrangement.

    I'm reminded of academic meetings in the current situation. For some reason, many university administrations are obsessed with Microsoft Teams, presumably for contractual reasons, and continually try to push it, and its constraints and awkward system, on everyone, especially for conferences. The result is not that people use Teams as intended: the result is that Teams primarily becomes a space that people use primarily to agree to move to some other, more natural space.

    The other possibility here is that the point of the idea is to have intentionally constrained, oulipien conversations. That might be more interesting, in a creative way, but in that case the use of the system would be much more limited than a system for general conversation, and I'm not sure that the simple rule of three participants with swapping would provide a sufficient constraint to create something interesting. There would also be the difficulty of avoiding having the system seem like some sort of imposed, dreadful networking or team-building exercise that seems to be the obsession of certain sorts of people and the horror of many others.

    The swapping and instant breakouts seem potentially interesting, but, at least to me, seem primarily interesting only in the context of larger discussions. The instant breakouts seem, in the context of triadic conversation groups, to have the potential to be outright offensive and socially vicious: either the breakout is done by two people inside the conversation, in which case it is really just a decision to exclude the third person, or the breakout is done by one person outside and one person inside, in which case it is primarily a social contest of whose company the person inside values more.

    As with many other systems with multiple conversation groups, the swaps and breakouts seem to be arranged devoid of context about the current conversations: it is not a matter of hearing another conversation that might be of immediate interest, swapping between conversations while vaguely keeping track of several; nor are the conversations large enough that splitting into smaller groups makes sense. Thus, it seems that the only reason to swap or breakout conversations is because you like the people you see in another conversation, or possible conversation, more than you like the people in your current one. The rigidity of either being wholly in or wholly out of conversations is a considerable frustration of mine with many multi-conversation systems, where my joining a conversation or not must entirely depend on a judgement of the participant list, but rather than addressing the problem, this system seems to take it to an extreme.

    Perhaps I don't understand the idea here. Or perhaps, I am not the target audience at all: I don't use Twitter, and feel that its constraints are actively harmful to reasonable conversation. I just don't see how making systems that are already frustrating in their inflexibility even less flexible, sacrificing quality of participants for perceived quality of arrangement, will be something that people would enjoy.

    7 votes
    1. wcerfgba
      Link Parent
      Thanks for the super detailed feedback. Regarding your meta-comment, I know what you mean that sometimes critique can come off sounding harsh, but I always try to look at the ideas someone is...

      Thanks for the super detailed feedback. Regarding your meta-comment, I know what you mean that sometimes critique can come off sounding harsh, but I always try to look at the ideas someone is putting forth and not get emotional about my ideas being 'attacked'. Plus I think adding a little preamble like you did is great for diffusing a problems like that before they form: it signals that you care about how I will receive your words and I really appreciate that. :)

      I'll admit that it is a little contrived, honestly I woke up the basic idea and thought it was 'cool' in the way that all of these gimmicky apps are kinda 'cool' and just decided to develop the idea a bit and spin up a landing page to see what people thought.

      I agree that the fundamental problem of group video calls isn't the number of participants but rather the underlying UX and tools involved in that: latency, low-res cameras, dodgy audio, and so on. Limiting a call to three people is supposed to help with that because it reduces the contention on that limited 'social bandwidth' of the call: if there's only two other people on the call, there is a much lower chance of failed interjections -- when the speaker changes to someone else -- because it's easier for my brain to subconsciously follow their body language more closely (only two feeds, can take up a lot of space on the screen), and because if person A has just finished talking, only myself or person B can interject -- so there is less contention for 'who gets to speak next' just by sheer numbers.

      It's not the best solution to the problem, but I think I am just interested in this area of design where constraints can help to solve a design or UX problem, something about successful solutions in that space is really appealing to me -- perhaps I am just a sucker for the 'gimmick factor'! :D

      I don't really follow your logic about breakouts and swaps being 'socially vicious', I would argue against that along the same lines that you say that good conversations are made by the participants and content: if you have groups of friends or contacts who are argumentative and don't like each other, then you are much more likely to have that problem of a bad conversation/call than if your friends are more chill.

      I would love to see a system that makes it easy to dip in and out of conversations and find calls that are interesting and promote moving around, I think that is another part of the problem-space which also needs exploring.

      6 votes
  2. [3]
    tesseractcat
    Link
    What if I want to have a video call with four people?

    What if I want to have a video call with four people?

    8 votes
    1. wcerfgba
      Link Parent
      With Trio you can't do that, it's an intentional limit like how Twitter restricts you to 280 characters. You could have two 'trios' of two people going on and then swap -- you can change places...

      With Trio you can't do that, it's an intentional limit like how Twitter restricts you to 280 characters. You could have two 'trios' of two people going on and then swap -- you can change places with someone in the other trio so if you have a call with A and B and another call with C and D, A can ask C to swap and then the calls will be C and B on one call and A and D on the other. Otherwise you would have to use a different app. :)

      7 votes
    2. maniel
      Link Parent
      You and four other participants? That's what quintet app is for

      You and four other participants? That's what quintet app is for

      5 votes
  3. chrysanth
    Link
    I agree with what others have said about the three-participant limit being rather arbitrary, but I want to say I really love the web design behind your landing page. Not just aesthetically but...

    I agree with what others have said about the three-participant limit being rather arbitrary, but I want to say I really love the web design behind your landing page. Not just aesthetically but also you nailed the brief descriptions as well. I was drawn in despite my overall skepticism about the concept.

    8 votes
  4. [3]
    wcerfgba
    Link
    Hey y'all, I had an idea for this app this weekend so I put together a landing page to do some 'lean validation' and see if anyone's interested in the idea. :) Curious to hear your thoughts. :)

    Hey y'all, I had an idea for this app this weekend so I put together a landing page to do some 'lean validation' and see if anyone's interested in the idea. :) Curious to hear your thoughts. :)

    2 votes
    1. [2]
      Gyrfalcon
      Link Parent
      I am not particularly keen on the app idea for reasons similar to what others presented, but I was wondering if you would talk, either here or in a separate post, about your process for getting a...

      I am not particularly keen on the app idea for reasons similar to what others presented, but I was wondering if you would talk, either here or in a separate post, about your process for getting a landing page up so quickly. My own experience with web development has mostly been one of plodding confusion, so learning how people move quickly would be neat!

      4 votes
      1. wcerfgba
        Link Parent
        Absolutely! :) My key take-aways are in italics. To start, I should say I am a full stack developer by profession, so I have a lot of experience with HTML+CSS and work with it regularly, so that...

        Absolutely! :) My key take-aways are in italics.

        To start, I should say I am a full stack developer by profession, so I have a lot of experience with HTML+CSS and work with it regularly, so that certainly gives me an advantage for the technical parts of the work. I have no professional design, copywriting or marketing experience.

        The first thing I did was to write down the basic idea and get a clear vision in my mind of what this product was supposed to do, what problems it is intending to solve, how I could lay out the webpage, etc. I wrote a quick pitch which ended up becoming a good chunk of the copy on the landing page.

        Next I wanted to come up with a color scheme and logo. I used Inkscape for all the graphics. I had the idea to go for an Instagram-style triple gradient and I wanted something light and airy so I immediately went for a kind of sky blue / teal and then chose colors that were close to that in terms of hue. I made a swatch with my colors and then I built the triple-gradient box by overlapping three boxes, one with each color fading to transparency. The logo was another random idea: I already had the image in my head of circles or bubbles for each video feed so the idea of interlocking circles just came to me very quickly. I didn't spend too long thinking about any of the design, which I think is key to moving fast with this kind of stuff: I could have spent days agonising over the colors, the logo, the name, etc. but sometimes you need to just take an idea and run with it. It can be really hard to see if a single element of a design is good or bad outside of a complete deliverable -- i.e. when you can see the colors on the page with the layout and the typography and everything else, a fully realised design, it's much easier to see if everything is harmonious and works together -- so I recommend trying to get to a big picture view quickly and then you can go back and change parts you're not happy with.

        For the stacking of the logo, title and tagline I wasn't sure if I should go side-by-side or what kinda layout I wanted, or even how I should scale the fonts, so I took inspiration from the Telegram website, where they stack it just like this, albeit with a smaller logo. Coming up with ideas is hard, so having a few things to inspire you and give you an initial direction can be really useful. Don't be afraid of 'stealing' someone else's ideas, everything is a remix and our brains are constantly drawing on things we have already seen when trying to make new things that are 'novel'.

        The 'media card' with an image and text is a classic component of web design that I am familiar with and I think does a good job of showing some thing and then allowing you to talk about it. It's also really easy to make responsive cos you can just drop the text below the image when the page gets too narrow. I whipped up an initial view of this in Inkscape to see what it looked like before I went on to code up the landing page.

        All the product demo images are also done in Inkscape. I got the stock photography from Unsplash. I didn't take time to make sure everything is perfectly centered or lined up, I just did it by eye cos I wanted to be quick -- keep your goal in mind: do you wanna get the landing page done as quickly as possible, or do you wanna learn how to use your graphics software better? They're both fine goals, nothing wrong with doing a project to learn more about the process, just know what your goal is and optimise your decisions towards achieving that goal.

        I have an empty HTML5 template with common meta tags in ready to go for when I need a new HTML file, so I made a copy of this. Because I only needed a single page, I didn't bother with any build tooling, separate CSS files or anything like that: I used python -m http.server to spin up a local server for development and I built the whole thing in a single file. I put the CSS at the top to prevent FOUC. I coded up my header with the logo and the cards and put in some default margins to get things spaced apart. I implemented it for desktop first and then went back and amended the CSS for mobile view, testing responsiveness as I went.

        As I was coding up the page proper, I wrote most of the copy as I went, and thought about the full flow of the landing page. I think these kind of pages are narrative: there is a problem; we can solve it; look at these cool features which solve the problem; give us your email address to learn more (call-to-action).

        Once I had a first pass of the page done, I wasn't happy with all the cards being the same, so I made the CTA card break out of the container and go full width, to really emphasise it, add a visual cue about the end of that 'flow', and provide some more eye-candy for that tasty gradient. With design it's important to take a break and do something else once you think you've hit a milestone -- give your brain and eyes a chance to refresh and come and see the piece as something 'new' again when you come back in 20-60 minutes. Once I came back I spaced cards out a bit more to give it a bit more air, but otherwise I was happy with the full look of the page.

        I used Revue as somewhere to gather signups. Originally I was going to use Mailchimp but they require you to provide a postal address to display in a few places and I didn't really want to do that -- they say its part of CAN-SPAM regulations but there are tons of other list providers that don't require this so I dunno what's going on with that. I've worked with Revue before so I already knew it was super easy to just add a basic form element to the page and post it straight to Revue. I didn't add any fancy submission JS because I didn't think it was necessary, it just seemed like more work for little gain so I cut scope there.

        I bought a domain from Namecheap since I already have an account there and it's quick and easy to do and not too expensive. I host the page on Github Pages because again I am familiar with that tool and its very quick and easy to get set up. I had to wait a few minutes for the SSL certificate to get issued once I added the custom domain but that's it really. :)

        I did some quick cross-browser testing with CrossBrowserTesting.com or something like that, particularly because iOS Safari is a fucking nightmare from hell but unfortunately very popular.

        And I think that's it :) Happy to answer any questions :)

        3 votes