We met Elise, John, Chris and Tony at Gov 2.0 is Washington D.C. last year. Their latest venture, Lucid Meetings, was created when they grew increasingly frustrated with existing online meeting tools and decided they could do better. While the company is located in Portland, OR, the founders are dispersed and use their own product to meet and guide the company forward. We caught up with the founders and they told us all about their inspiration to build Lucid Meetings, including how they drew inspiration from MMORPG games.
What is Lucid Meetings?
Lucid Meetings was founded to solve the problem of how to hold effective, recurring group meetings. The solution uses at its base the core components of parliamentary procedure, a tried and true method of holding productive meetings. This means that every meeting has an agenda, you can make and capture decisions, take or contribute meeting notes, and then share the results via minutes and action items. The continuity of the group, its goals and conversations, is maintained between meetings ensuring that your next meeting is equally productive.
What makes an effective meeting?
We did considerable research on what constituted an effective meeting and how to run one. What we realized early on was that parliamentary procedure had solved many of these problems over centuries of refinement. In the US that’s Robert’s Rules of Order. To make Lucid Meetings work, we streamlined and distilled the essence of those rules and then translated them to the online environment.
How did you come up with the idea for the product?
Like everyone, we’ve used existing web conferencing and online meeting solutions. We’ve used them for board meetings, committee meetings, and general ‘let’s-get-something-done’ meetings. We grew increasingly frustrated with their limitations and lack of support for tracking an agenda, making and recording decisions, and maintaining the continuity of the group between meetings, so we decided to make our own.
How are you using Twilio?
We are building our Twilio integration in several phases, moving forward with each phase once the previous phase is successfully deployed and adopted by our customers. The first phase is basic conference call provisioning and attendee identification. We are taking advantage of Twilio’s features to automatically add attendees to conference calls in progress. If there is more than one meeting on someone’s calendar, we use text-to-speech to provide them with the list of meetings to which they’ve been invited and are currently in session or about to begin.
In later phases we’re looking to more thoroughly integrate the online and telecom experiences by leveraging the text-to-voice, voice-to-text transcription, and SMS features, to name just a few. By using Twilio we can create an online meeting service that is more or less device agnostic: you can join your meeting online, via VOIP, a smartphone, or a normal phone and we’ll make sure the experience is as rich as possible.
What other technologies did you use to transform Lucid Meetings from idea to reality?
Lucid Meetings uses a combination of technologies to support the synchronous in-meeting experience and the before, after and between meeting needs of groups and teams.
For the most part, we’re using standard Web technologies: CSS, JQuery, HTML, etc. Lucid is hosted on Amazon’s AWS framework for ease of deployment and scalability. We have built custom build and deployment processes that allow us to rapidly scale the service as needed to meet demand.
Our biggest challenge was how to support the synchronous in-meeting experience without requiring a plugin or download, as most other real-time meeting solutions do. To solve this, we looked for inspiration to the MMORPG world and found that many of these games are driven by chat-based technologies, such as XMPP. Our in-meeting experience uses a Jabber-based XMPP service to push meeting status and information updates to all attendees in real-time. All attendees are automatically connected to the XMPP chat service when they log into the meeting with their web browser, and all browsers are continuously synchronized with each other to provide a consistent meeting experience.
What are your plans for the future of Lucid Meetings?
So much of our professional lives is spent in meetings, and yet so many of them are unproductive. If we could improve the effectiveness of just a fraction of those meetings, we would consider ourselves successful. And just think what will happen to the GDP!