Monday, February 15, 2021

Experimenting with three network tools: Wonder Me, Spatialchat and Gather

In October I ran into Wonder at the online conference of facilitators and I got really excited about it. You can easily 'walk around' and talk to people. Then I discovered that there are many more such tools. Time for a meetup with my Dutch network (called Losmakers) to experiment with three different tools and brainstorm about ways to use them. 

We tried Wonder me with the whole group of around 40 people. It didn't take me long to set up the tool. I already had a room and put a new background behind it. I made 3 circles with topics. However, in my Wonder experiences people just walk around and don't seem to follow the topics of the circles. 'As in real life' somebody remarked. In the word cloud you can see how the LOSmakers experienced Wonder me. Especially striking: very positive, intuitive, handy and fun. A few had problems with sound or became a bit dizzy from zooming in and out. People appreciated that you can immediately walk around without long explanations. The tool is really user-friendly. Personally I had difficulties with my webcam, but apparently this is a result of the stricter privacy settings of chrome? 

People also found spatialchat equally easy and playful. The difference with Wonder is that you can set up and furnish different rooms here. In each room you can choose a background image and you can also, for example, prepare a video or other content. What is the difference between Wonder and Spatialchat? With Wonder you hear the people in your circle and not the others. With spatialchat you can hear people close by, but also people further away. This gives the real pub effect, but the question is whether this is desirable online. So we went with a group: 'up the mountain', to have a quiet space where we did not hear the mumbling of the others.

Gather has rooms, and you can even build a city. It reminds me of walking around in Habbo hotel (for those who still know Habbo). Hence, people thought it was old-fashioned. Also funny, playful and a possible substitute for breakouts, although some would use it mainly for friends and not for professional meetings.

What can we do with those tools? 

As a wrap up we discussed how to use it. They are all tools for informal meeting, so people are happy to meet informally or to chat after a session. A closing online drink, for example. But there are also other ideas:
  • Brainstorming. It is very suitable for brainstorming, because the tool automatically loosens you up through the freedom to walk around and mingle. 
  • Breakout sessions. You can use it as a replacement for breakout rooms. Instead of the breakout, you invite people to one of these tools. They will have to come back by themselves at an agreed upon time. In Wonder me you can stop all conversations and announce that you have to go back to eg your Zoom or Teams meeting. 
  • Teambuilding. Use it to strengthen informal contact in an online team. Walk around in Wonder me every Monday?
  • Innovation. You could shake up a consultation that goes the same way every time by doing it like this.
  • Information markets, poster presentations or 'Share fairs'. In Spatialchat you can give each organization its own corner, and people can walk around. Or make circles in Wonder.
  • Open space. It lends itself to open space. The 'law of two feet' means that you can walk around and leave if the conversation is less interesting to you. This is best possible with the help of these tools. 

Tip: If you want to start working with these networking tools: plan enough time to get to know the tool and set it up. Also good is testing on which devices and with which browsers it works well. Sometimes you have to give permission to your webcam or it only works with Chrome and Firefox. This is important to prevent some people from not being able to participate.


David said...

There is also Hubbub ( which has directional audio. If you are wearing stereo headphones you hear the direction of other speakers. And well before those was Remo with tables you place your avatar next to.

Joitske said...

Hi David, thanks for sharing hubhub, will check it out. I know Remo, which is great too for a world cafe.