Tag Archives: Google Meet

Make Your Virtual Thanksgiving Fun

By Tracey Dowdy

With the recent surge in COVID cases, many of us are heeding the CDC’s warning regarding holiday gatherings and opting for a virtual Thanksgiving with those we love. Though sharing a meal via a video conference is something few of us could have anticipated this time last year, there are still ways to make your holiday memorable in all the best ways. 

First, choose the platform you’re going to connect through. Zoom has lifted its 40 minute limit on free accounts from midnight ET on Nov. 26 through 6 a.m. ET on Nov. 27 so your dad doesn’t get cut off in the middle of his classic “Thanksgiving of ‘82” story. Other platforms like Skype Meet NowGoogle MeetJitsiFacebook, and WhatsApp all offer free video conferencing, with differing levels of service and features. Take some time over the next day or two and determine which features are most important for your crew. 

Platforms like BrightfulBoard Game Arena, and Tabletopia allow you to play hundreds of new and old games online. Plus, many of your favorite board games are available as apps for your iOS or Android device, and several have online multiplayer modes so you can play while voice or video chatting with your family and friends. ZoomJam created sociable face-to-face games to play with family and friends through video chat, with a dozen games to choose from. And, if all seems to be going well and you’re looking to ruin everything, Hasbro allows users to play their most popular games, including Monopoly, through their site. A few years back, they set up a hotline for players to call and settle those savage Monopoly disputes – here’s hoping it makes a comeback this year. 

As with all video conference calls, be mindful of what’s in the background. There’s been countless horrifying or hilarious – depending on who you ask – stories of video conferencing fails since we all started working from home back in March. Remind everyone when the camera is live and when your mic is on. If you want to keep your mother in law from judging your housekeeping even from out of state, consider downloading or selecting a custom background for your video chat. Of course, Zoom offers its own selection, and Apple’s FaceTime will allow you to chat as your memoji avatar. 

Apps like Teleparty (formerly Netflix party), Amazon Prime Watch Party, and Hulu Watch Party allow you to watch a movie together, all from the safety and comfort of your own home. Most require a subscription, so keep that in mind as you choose a platform. Make Use Of has a more comprehensive list of options. Watch2Gether not only offers video options, but it also allows you to listen to music, do karaoke, or even “go shopping” so you can still hit those Black Friday sales together. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Use Facebook Messenger Screen Sharing on Your Phone

By Tracey Dowdy 

Facebook Messenger now allows users to share their screens on iOS and Android mobile devices. You can online shop, browse through photos together, or scroll through social media all within Messenger’s familiar interface.

Any added features help Messenger stand out among the competition. Google Meet,  SkypeZoom, and Microsoft Teams are popular options, but some users are more comfortable connecting via Messenger, a platform most are already familiar with. Now, Messenger’s screen sharing feature lets you instantly share your screen, either in video calls with up to eight people or using the Messenger Rooms feature to chat with up to 50 people. Perhaps best of all, there’s no time limit, unlike Zoom, that cuts you off after 40 minutes unless you opt for the paid version. You can also screen share in Messenger Rooms on your desktop.

As Room creator, you can decide whether to limit the ability to screen share to yourself or make it available to all participants on the call. Messenger’s other fun features include creating a custom backgroundlivestreaming your video chats, and participating in a Watch Party from within the platform. 

To screen-share via Facebook Messenger on your phone: 

  • Open the Messenger app on your iPhone or Android device.
  • Start a video call by selecting one or more of your contacts, then tap the camera icon.
  • Once on the call, swipe up on the toolbar at the bottom (where you find the icons for hanging up or turning your mic off). 
  • From within the expanded menu that pops up, tap Share your screen. 

Now, other participants will be able to see a live view of whatever is on your screen. Your chat interface (the live video being streamed) will migrate to the upper right-hand corner of your phone, so you’ll still be able to see the other chat members while displaying what’s on your phone. 

That’s it. Facebook has made the process pretty straightforward, so even the most technologically challenged among us should find screen sharing within Messenger simple and easy to access. Have fun sharing! 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

 

 

How to use Facebook’s Free New Video Chat Option

By Tracey Dowdy

Never one to let the competition get too far ahead, Facebook has come up with a new video chat alternative to its competitors, Zoom, Skype, Jitsi Meet, and Google Meet. With Messenger Rooms, up to 50 people can chat in a room at once, with no time limit. Participants don’t even need an account to use the room.

Messenger Rooms offers more features than its Facebook Messenger video chat option, allowing up to 50 people on screen with no time limit through either the main Facebook app or through the dedicated Messenger one.

Zoom became especially popular in the early days of self-quarantining, but issues around security leading to Zoom-bombing soon became an issue. Facebook is no stranger to security and privacy problems. Still, in a livestream earlier this month, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company has been “very careful.” He tried to “learn the lessons” from issues users have experienced with other video conference tools over the past several months. 

Facebook also owns WhatsApp, with over 700 million accounts participating in voice and video calls every day on both platforms. In a press release in April, Facebook noted that the number of calls has more than doubled in many areas since the coronavirus outbreak began.

Facebook seems to be taking the potential security risks seriously. Messenger Rooms promises these features:

  • Locking: Rooms can be locked or unlocked once a call begins. If a room is closed, no one else can join, except a Group administrator for rooms created through a Group. 
  • Removing a participant: The room creator can remove any unwanted participants. If the room creator removes someone from the call or leaves, the room will lock automatically, and the room creator must unlock the call for others to join. 
  • Leaving: If at any point, users feel unsafe in a room, they can exit. Locking down a room prevents others from entering, not participants from leaving.
  • Reporting: Users can report a room name or submit feedback about a room if they feel it violated Facebook’s Community Standards. However, since Facebook doesn’t record Messenger Room calls, so reports and feedback will not include audio or video from the room.
  • Blocking: You can block someone on Facebook or Messenger who may be bothering you, and they will not be informed. When someone you’ve blocked is logged into Facebook or Messenger, they won’t be able to join a room you’re in, and you won’t be able to join theirs.

Make sure you have the latest version of the Facebook and Messenger mobile apps downloaded from the App Store or the Google Play Store to create a room on your phone. 

  • Open the Messenger app.
  • Tap the People tab at the bottom right of your screen. 
  • Tap Create a Room and select the people you want to join. 
  • To share a room with people who don’t have a Facebook account, you can share the link with them. You can also share the room in your News Feed, Groups, and Events. 
  • You can join a room from your phone or computer — no need to download anything, according to Facebook.

To create a room on your laptop or desktop, go to your Home Page and to the box at the top where you would usually post. Click on “Create Room” and follow the prompts to name your chat, invite guests, and choose your start time.

Currently available to everyone in the US, Canada, and Mexico, Messenger Rooms is rolling out worldwide over the next week.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.