The 'Story' Behind the Meeting Room

To start, you have to ask the following question: "What is a meeting room?"

In a physical sense, it is a private space where people interact with each other. In today's office environment, someone would have to reserve the room, and the attendees would have to be physically present in the room. You could also expect that someone would be transcribing the minutes, which would be available to the participants afterward. Now compare that process to an online meeting. To start, our room is "logical," not physical. This means the room is simply an instance of the meeting application that has been given its own little space in memory and on the hard drive. Because the room is logical, it can be designed with enough flexibility that we can create our own rooms online, and we can all meet in those rooms. If we need extra privacy, we can add some programming that would check for "members only."

To enter the rooms, all one needs to do is select the room and click a "join" button. With the addition of the video, users with webcams can see each other and get a real sense of "being there." The addition of a text area enables users to exchange information that would otherwise be hard to express verbally, such as URLs. Of course, we could add to the meeting room capabilities by adding a whiteboard component and using it to share documents while others are conversing.

The entire meeting can be recorded on the server by capturing the video stream for later playback. This way, nothing is missed in the meeting; knowing that a transcript will be available enables the participants to focus on the meeting.

You will notice that there is very little talk about sketching and building. This preamble follows an important point made in Chapter 5, "Planning the Look." Projects of this sort always start with a story that begins with, "When the user arrives at the meeting page…." After the story is related, we break out the paper, pens, and pencils.