Alternatives to Live Meetings

If you are looking for alternatives to meeting face to face, we have several of them for you to use.

NOTE: Listen to our Need to Know webinar on free software and online meetings in the age of Corona Virus which took placee on March 26th, 2020.

The Main Point

The decision much of our movement is making to cancel or postpone in-person convergences is a responsible one given the circumstances.

It’s also a potentially major setback for our work and organizing. Our movements around the world use face to face interaction to educate, organize and mobilize. It is still our most potent tool and, for the time being, we can’t use it.

For much of its history, May First Movement Technology has responded to requests for alternatives and support during crises. We want to do that now. But we also want to make a point that our members, comprised largely of hundreds of organizations in the United States and Mexico, have been raising:

As a movement, we need to start rethinking how we converge, meet and communicate. The large national and regional conferences that are not possible momentarily will prove less and less feasible in the future. As our movement diversifies and grows, many of the people and organizations we want to attend these conferences won’t be able to afford them and a national conference often consumes most of an organization’s resources – making other important work impossible. In addition, the enormous carbon footprint of conference travel will make that kind of convergence more and more untenable as the climate crisis continues.

May First isn’t here to tell you how to meet or converge. We’re just reporting that many of our members are re-thinking how large gatherings and even medium- sized meetings fit into their organizing work…and coming to the conclusion that there has to be another way.

For Now…

We’re here to help you deal with the conference or meeting you just had to cancel. You need to meet and you can’t do it face to face. We have solutions that we have been using for years because, as an organization whose members are all over the United States and Mexico, May First holds constant meetings and convergences on-line. As a leading technology organization of the left- wing movement, we share what we have with our movement.

A Point about Zoom

We know that a lot of people are using Zoom…including many of our members. It’s an excellent program but there are some very significant drawbacks to it. It costs money to use for large meetings and many organizations don’t have that kind of money. It is proprietary software and we think that contradicts the direction we should take in developing software. And, finally, it is highly intrusive. The company that owns zoom claims the right to collect information from people at a meeting that includes:

Name, user name, physical address, email address, phone numbers, job information, credit card information, Facebook profile information, information about the computer and internet connection, and buying and browsing habits.

Zoom says it uses this information for marketing and to serve its users. But there is one other “use” it makes clear:

“This includes responding to a legally binding demand for information, such as a warrant issued by a law enforcement entity of competent jurisdiction, or as reasonably necessary to preserve Zoom’s legal rights.”

This is the privacy statement from zoom:

https://zoom.us/privacy

You may not have a problem with it but you should consider this when you use zoom. Your meeting’s participants will be turned over to the government if the government demands it. Period.

Just to be clear. We don’t turn any user data over to any government. Period.

Our solutions

These are three of the solutions we use for meetings.

Accessible Audio-only conferencing

Mumble is the meeting and convergence program used internally for all meetings at May First. Above all features, bells, and whistles, mumble prioritizes access for everyone. It works in low bandwidth environments and runs smoothly on all equipment. It has always been and will continue to be free, both libre software and free of cost for anyone to run. The program can accommodate simultaneous interpretation (critical for many organizations, including ours) in a way that supports language justice: no language has to be the dominant language - provided you have a live interpreter, anyone can speak in their language of choice.

Mumble is an audio only program (no video, no screen sharing). It is compatible with Windows, Macintosh and Linux as well as android and iPhones. You download an app, go to the specific room which is being used for the meeting and you can meet with as many people as you want. The program allows for sub-channels inside the main meeting channel which can be used for break- out sessions.

Anyone can join your meeting and anyone can start a meeting - no passwords or login required. May First members can request permission to create a permanent room and the ability to mute or unmute participants.

This is our support page for mumble with download links for computers and phones.

https://support.mayfirst.org/wiki/mumble

Video web conferencing for small numbers

Jitsi-meet is a video and audio meeting software for a limited number of people. It is extremely easy to use and, if you need to have a meeting with twenty or fewer people, this is absolutely the program to use. It’s open source, free of charge.

Jitsi-meet works best if all participants use the jitsi-meet app (see https://support.mayfirst.org/wiki/web-conference for links to download the jitsi-meet app for Windows, Macinstosh, Linux, Android or iPhone).

In a pinch, you can participate from any web browser by going directly to https://meet.mayfirst.org, however, using the app will result in much better performance.

The best way to use jitsi-meet is to use its own browser and our support page tells you which version you need and where to download it.

One-way broadcasting

May First has a dead simple way to broadcast your audio and video to many people: https://live.mayfirst.org/.

Using your browser and computer camera and mic (works on your computer or your cell phone) you can instantly publish your video and audio via a link to the rest of the world.

This service requires a May First username and password to use (any existing May First user account works).

May First Live is beta software - it has not been fully tested, particularly to ensure it works well with all operating systems and browsers (iPhone and iPad users may have trouble watching the streaming video - feedback is welcome).

You need to log in to use this service on our servers and only members can do that without asking. So if you’re not a member, you have two options: you can become one (which you should anyway) or you can email us to set up a credential for you and send it to you. We’ll do that within a couple of hours usually.

Keep in mind: there is a 45 - 60 second delay in the audio-video transmission. You say something and it won’t be heard on people’s computers for up to a minute.

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