[Updated 1:35 PM: The cause for the problems with LiveMeeting has been found] Fellow blogger Marc Orchant had a super handy tip the other day to sign up for a Microsoft LiveMeeting seminar this morning given by author Cliff Atkinson. The topic was about moving beyond the same old boring bullet points that conventional wisdom tells us to do. Aside from a horrible meeting experience, I found the seminar so useful that I actually bought the book today since I've been boring my audience to tears with some of my long bullet point presentations.
Now you're probably wondering what this business about a horrible meeting experience is. Let me put it this way; Microsoft's Live Meeting has a long way to go! When I tried to sign on to the seminar this morning, it gave me an error that it was full and that I had to check back. Ok, maybe too many people joined and I'll just come back in a little bit and try again like the nice error message says. I come back 20 minutes later and it seems that I'm going to get through this time. LiveMeeting prompts me to download and install software, so I do it and install the LiveMeeting software and I finally get into the meeting half way through. While the initial delay was hard to excuse, I can let it slide since it's a free meeting and I'm a forgiving kind of person. But you would think it's clear sailing from now on right? Wrong! It gets worse, much worse.
As I navigate the LiveMeeting interface, it mysteriously vanishes on me except for one browser window that offers me a chance to reconnect. Ok, that was strange; so I click reconnect and get back in. At that point a friend on IM sends me a text note on Skype and a message box pops up and obtains focus (focus is the active Window or item on a graphical desktop interface). As soon as Skype obtains focus and LiveMeeting loses it, poof -- my LiveMeeting session is gone and I have to sign back in again. At this point, I'm curious to see what happened so I clicked on the desktop again and poof LiveMeeting is dead and I have to sign on again. At this point, I had missed most of the seminar and I really wanted to finish it so I closed my IM stuff and exited all other applications that might pop up and obtain focus away from LiveMeeting. After all that, I rejoined the meeting and finished it.
So what's the reason for this crazy behavior? I'm not running any strange software and I'm running the latest patched version of IE6 with Windows XP SP2 so there nothing special about my system that should cause these problems. One possibility is that because the seminar was closed off for PDF exports, it is possible that I triggered some sort of security mechanism that LiveMeeting will auto-close thinking I might try and implement some sort of screen capture utility. If that was the case, it would be the dumbest thing I ever heard because this would really tick people off and I could use my high resolution digital camera to take pictures of the seminar and use an audio recorder if I had wanted to. If this isn't the reason and this is some sort of bug, I don't know how something this severe can get past quality assurance.
The truth of the matter is, most people probably won't care and will just stick to the mature web conferencing veteran WebEX. Microsoft bought WebEX competitor Placeware a few years ago which at the time was at a substantial technological disadvantage to WebEX. LiveMeeting seems to have caught up a little as far as its ability to process vector art and effects, but its usability is as bad as or worse than it's ever been.