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Twiddla does web meetings

And this is our blog

Mark up websites, graphics, and photos, or start brainstorming on a blank canvas. Browse the web with your friends or make that conference call more productive than ever. No plug-ins, downloads, or firewall voodoo - it's all here, ready to go when you are.

Introducing API Sandbox Accounts

We've been spending a lot of time lately working on Twiddla's API for Creating and Embedding Whiteboards. If you haven't checked it out, our API is a great way to add Whiteboarding functionality to your site. They make great Online Classrooms for Tutoring sites.

Now, even though it's always been easy to get up and running with the API, until now we haven't had a good way to let people test out advanced features such as Co-Branding and custom CSS and Javascript to completely customize the way the Whiteboard looks and feels.

This weekend, we introduced a way for developers to test out every last piece of the API without having to upgrade to a paid plan. We call it the API Sandbox account. It never expires, and it gives full API access, with just a few minor limitations to dissuade folks from trying to run a production site with it.

Pretty cool, eh? Take it for a spin and let us know what you think.


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Twiddla does EtherPad

Remember EtherPad?

They were the the coolest thing around a few years back, with their little collaborative text editor that synchronized everything as you typed. As a product, it was simple and to the point. And it just plain worked in a way that all the other "Online Word Processors" of the day didn't.

Then Google bought them and it went away.

For a while there, we used to see Twiddla's name popping up in online discussions about EtherPad and vice versa. Lots of people were saying that either Twiddla was the missing feature of EtherPad or that we were somehow a superset of them. Clearly, we were both doing our separate things and doing them well, but it sure would have been cool if there was a way to combine the two.

Well there is.

You see, I was fibbing a bit when I said that EtherPad went away. When they were bought, somebody in the know must have realized that the product would never see the light of day inside Google, so they did the miraculous: They Open-Sourced the code.

Hell yeah! Now we're talking. That meant that now anybody could fire up their own EtherPad server if they were willing to invest a bit of time and effort. Better still, it meant that we at Twiddla could start poking around and dreaming some dreams that were previously undreamable.

EtherPad inside of Twiddla

Well, enough dreaming. You know where I'm going with this. We quietly pushed a release last month that lets you create EtherPads within Twiddla. You get all the collaborative editing goodness that you remember, but now you can scribble over the top of it, add sticky notes, drop pictures of LOLcats on it, and otherwise Twiddle up the place.

It rocks. Go check it out!


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Twiddla vs. The Snow

If you're in the US (or sunny Ecuador like me at the moment), you might not have noticed that England is buried under a dozen feet of snow right now. Everything is closed. Roofs are collapsing. It's pretty much exactly like the plot of The Day After Tomorrow.

Worst of all though, schools are closed and the poor kids have nothing to do but build boring old snowmen and sled down hills.

Except for the kids in this guy's class. They get to play with Twiddla all day. Here's a replay of the lesson.

People have been using Twiddla in the classroom for a long time now. We even give out Free Educational Accounts to anybody who asks for one. We're all about helping the kids of today, on the theory that they'll be wearing suits at some point in the future and needing a kick-ass web conferencing tool like ours.

So yeah, we're glad to help out. If you have a snowbound class of your own someplace in the UK, be sure to let us know and we'll hook you up with the tools you need to keep your classes going.


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Fun with TwiddleBot!

One of the reasons I dig working on Twiddla is that people keep finding strange and different ways of using it. I mean yeah, most people fall into one of the 3 popular use cases (education, business, and screwing off), but every once in a while we'll stumble across a little group of people using it for something truly wacky.

Like D&D.

Early on, we noticed a thriving little subculture using Twiddla to play role-playing games online. I guess it makes sense when you think about it. We let you scribble over anything you upload, move stuff around, chat, and talk to people online. That's everything you need for a night of gaming. Cool!

Being geeks that we are, it's never enough just to watch folks finding cool things to do with Twiddla. We're happy to blow off some paying work to convert these random kids into true fans. So now if you look carefully, you'll see some Gaming functionality that snuck in while nobody was looking. Observe:

That's right. I just rolled some dice inside of Twiddla.

One of the cool things about writing software is that you can make it do whatever you want. So now, TwiddleBot (whose usual job is cleaning out the sandboxes from time to time) will do things for you if you ask nicely. Throwing dice is just one of them. If you're bored, maybe you can figure out some of the other stuff he can do. If you're feeling helpful, maybe you'll have suggestions for new things he can do. Possibly even things that are helpful, rather than distracting like this one!


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100,000 Meetings!

By the end of today, Twiddla will have hosted more than 100,000 Web Meetings over the course of its short life. Check it out if you want. Start a new meeting now and I bet it will give you a six-digit room ID. We're pretty stoked.

Imagine if, instead of hosting Meetings at Twiddla, all of those people had to travel across country just to meet face to face. Imagine the fuel savings alone. Better still, imagine they all had to travel overseas. By sailboat even. And imagine if, when they got there, they couldn't find a cab and they had to walk for miles or possibly even steal a horse just to get to that meeting. I mean, what would you do with that horse once you got there? You couldn't keep it. You'd have to kill it, right, just to cover your tracks?

So even by a conservative estimate of 3 people per meeting, it's probably safe to say that Twiddla has saved the lives of at least 300,000 horses this year alone. Now that's something to be proud of.

Thanks to all of our devoted supporters for helping make this a reality.


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How not to talk to the Press

If you've been reading the paper lately, you probably heard the news that we've given up on the business, packed it in and applied for jobs at Dairy Queen. If you've been following Twiddla, however, and seen some of the cool new stuff that we've rolled out over the last few weeks, I think you'll agree that the above statement is not entirely true.

We have, it seems, been misquoted.

We did an interview with the New York Times recently about our fast product turnarounds, and the fact that between the two founders of Twiddla, we've been nominated for (and won) SXSW awards for two separate products in consecutive years. That's a pretty cool feat, and certainly one worth reporting.

Somewhere in the course of that interview, our man Ben was describing the roller-coaster ride that tech startups such as Twiddla tend to follow as they move from concept to prototype to successful product. It's best visualized in this chart that I'm redrawing from memory after having seen it on the whiteboard at YCombinator's office in Stanford.

Basically, every startup in the world follows this growth curve (with the exception of those that never make it onto the radar), and we did too. Winning SXSW gave us a ton of media attention and enough web traffic to choke a wildebeest. Naturally, that faded quickly enough and we were forced to stand on our own merit. We iterated rapidly and made lots of improvements to the product in the hopes of attracting and retaining users that stumbled across the site. After a few months, we started to see the fruits of that labor, as word-of-mouth traffic, blog traffic, and Twitter referrals came flowing in. Here we are a year later, and we've grown to the point where our average Monday traffic is roughly half what it was that day when the entire population of Japan checked it out, and real people are paying real money to use the thing.

In short, we're doing amazingly well.

Anyway, back to that interview. Naturally, reporters like to make their stories interesting, and they absolutely love controversial quotes. Especially if they have a great catch phrase like "Trough of Despair". So in hindsight, it seems obvious that after hearing Ben describe that chart, we'd get quoted the way we did. Never mind the part where (in the next sentence), we went on to talk about how great it's been now that we've climbed out of that trough. That would just add to the word count, and really, nobody cares about that part.

So I'll close with the advice that everybody who's ever talked to the press will tell you (and that we neglected to heed last week to our own peril.): Always expect that everything you say will be quoted out of context. Find a way to craft your sentences so that each one of them contains all the context they'll need to stand on their own. Don't be afraid of reporters, but keep in mind that their goal for the interview may be different than yours. You want to get your message out. They want to tell an interesting story. If you're smart, you'll make sure that the interesting parts of your story just happen to be the parts that make you look good.


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Introducing Presentation Mode

"How many people can be in a single meeting?"

We get that question a lot when talking about Twiddla. Here's the answer we tend to give:

"How many people can use a single blackboard?"

The idea here is that it's really more of a social issue than a technical one. We've had 200 people in a single meeting, and the server handled it just fine. It was a complete mess though.

I guess another way of looking at it is: "How many people can you get onto a single conference call?" And that's where it starts to get interesting. The answer to that one is "As many as you like, provided that everybody is polite about it." And there's certainly evidence to support that view. I've seen conference calls with a couple hundred people listening that worked just great.

Twiddla, however, works a bit different. It's FUN. So much fun that people sometimes forget to be polite. When you land in a meeting, the first thing you notice is that your cursor turns into a pencil. So naturally, the first thing you do is scribble something. We've seen this happen often enough, and it makes for fun demos when the audience discovers that they can simply type in the URL they see on the screen and hop in. Of course, this is why we've learned to make our point in the first 15 seconds of any demo, since it will immediately turn into a scribble-fest as soon as people start piling in.

That's probably not the best thing to have happen if you're trying to use Twiddla for a training call, so today we're releasing "Presentation Mode", in all of its boring glory. Try it out when you get a chance. You can now declare yourself Benevolent Dictator For Life, and give yourself the sole power to change pages and mark things up. The other participants in your meeting will get Chat and Voice, and that's about it. Hopefully they'll behave themselves so that you can get some work done.


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10 Zillion percent better at UI design

At the request of some of our users, we spent the better part of a day building a Snap-to-Grid feature, and a little library of UI controls that you can drag onto the canvas in Twiddla. To be honest, I didn't think it was that big of a change, but wow, was I wrong. Suddenly, mocking up user interfaces is, like, easy!

Give it a shot and let us know what you think!


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Press release for Twiistup 2008

Twiddla (www.twiddla.com), a free, no-setup online collaboration tool, announced today that it will be showing off new features at the upcoming Twiistup (www.twiistup.com) event on July 17th. Twiddla is one of 11 companies invited to “show off” to a sold-out audience of technology-, media- and entertainment-types at the annual Los Angeles event. Twiddla is a web-based platform that helps distributed teams meet virtually and collaborate in real time by providing tools to create mark-ups of live Web sites, uploaded images and documents, or a blank canvas. In addition to an advanced chat feature, Twiddla offers an opportunity for collaborators to speak with one another via PhoneFromHere.com. “We are very excited to be sharing our new features at Twiistup,” said Benjamin Satterfield, Co-founder and CEO of Twiddla. “We developed them in response to user requests and we think they will enhance the experience of Twiddla significantly. We’re looking forward to the community’s response.” “With factors like the increasing number of geographically-dispersed teams and the high cost of gas, the need for easy and effective online collaboration tools has never been greater. Twiddla is the solution for anyone who wants to meet and collaborate online without enlisting a tech support team or needing a big corporate budget,” said Satterfield. “It’s painless, it’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s free.” Twiistup is currently sold-out, but photos, blogs, and clips from the event will be available on their website after the event.


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Twiddla Demo at NYC Tech Meetup

Hey, No Joke! Benjamin Satterfield presents April 1, 2008 at the NYC Tech Meetup in the new IAC building in Manhattan with fellow speakers:

  1. Steve Rosenbaum: http://magnify.net
  2. Oliver Hurst-Hiller: http://DonorsChoose.org
  3. John Pavley: http://exchange.conte
  4. Mark Ghuneim: http://www.trendrr.com
  5. Ben Kaufman: http://kluster.com
  6. Ben Satterfield: http://twiddla.com
  7. Justin Ouellette: http://muxtape.com
  8. Nate Westheimer: http://bricabox.com
At the end of the demo, the wifi went down. See, we truly are a disruptive technology! Great to show off the demo with an Apple too, considering they just turned 32 today. Thanks to Nate & Christian for the video and help. And Justin for his patience and great demo as well.


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