UPDATE Wednesday 10 September 2014: See Update below at the end of this post for feedback on a recent BigMarker webinar.
BigMarker is a new content platform that combines the ability to host webinars – for free – along with building an online community . . . think Facebook Groups. Given many of the current issues involving the cost of reliable webinar platforms and the hesitancy of older users to join Facebook, BigMarker could be a viable solution for many genealogy societies and organizations.
Like many websites, creating an account at BigMarker is free and once created you can update your personal profile with information including your photo.
Once you’ve completed your profile, you’ll likely want to create a community or host a conference (which is what BigMarker calls a webinar).
Basically BigMarker’s Community feature competes with Facebook Groups, but offers quite a few more options. Also, for those genealogy societies and organizations that can’t convince some members to get on Facebook, BigMarker might be a better option.
From the main page, you can add a wallpaper graphic, a logo, invite others to join and share your community via social share buttons.
Here are some of the functions you get once you create a community – all for free!
- Bulletin – similar to a Wall or NewsFeed for a Facebook Group – this is where you post information for your community to see. Within the Bulletin area there are sub-functions including Share, Kudos and Poll.
- Calendar – schedule events including upcoming conferences and more. A nice touch is that when you create a Conference (see below), it gets added to the calendar.
- Conferences – lists upcoming conferences as well as recordings of past conferences.
- About – contact information for the Community organizer, links to external websites and social media, etc.
- Settings – set privacy features and notification features related to the Community.
Here are some other nice features that take BigMarker’s Community feature beyond what you can do on Facebook or other platforms:
- You can have a private community or even an “invisible community.”
- You can charge dues for members.
- You can require future members to complete an application form with questions to answer.
- You can allow others to invite new people to the community.
- You can allow community members to see each other.
Limitations – Community
Right now I’m not seeing many limitations with the Community feature. My main concern is being able to export data if BigMarker should shut down or get bought out (not that I’m anticipating this, but I know the nature of startups . . .). As I’ve stated quite often, any time you are building something on someone’s platform and supplying your own data as well as your own time and effort, make sure you have portability of data and an exit strategy.
Community as Website Substitute?
What I’d love to see happen in the genealogy community is this: smaller genealogy societies who can’t afford a web presence could and should consider using BigMarker’s Community feature. Especially for those groups where members are adamant about not using Facebook or other social media. BigMarker is easy to use, the layout is simple, has a nice large font, etc. It is very user-friendly to our demographic in genealogy!
Webinars aka Conferences
The conference or webinar function is what first caught my attention since I currently am paying for a webinar platform (GoToWebinar) at a cost of $99 per month for a maximum of 100 attendees. In my initial testing, I found that BigMarker’s webinar feature comes with all the functionality of the other platforms including GoToWebinar: screen sharing, uploading of slide presentations, webcam, microphone, chat (group and individual), etc. Also, there is no download needed on the part of the attendee!
FREE Webinar – Creating a Blog Header Using PowerPoint
In order to really test BigMarker’s conference function with a live audience, I’ll be hosting a FREE webinar this evening – Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 8:30 pm Central and you’re invited! Well, the first 100 actually . .. The topic is Creating a Blog Header Using PowerPoint and I’ll be doing a live demo of how you can use PowerPoint to create graphics for your blog. Click here to register and I hope to see you online! Also, it would be great if, after the webinar, you could either send me your feedback on BigMarker or post the info out on social media for others to see.
Limitations – Webinars
Some points to keep in mind:
- Different conference rooms – right now BigMarker is transitioning to a new non-flash technology (using WebRTC). If you set up a conference with the new room format, you have restrictions as to web browser, attendee numbers etc.
- Webinar vs. Meeting – keep in mind that a meeting is a different animal all together and more of a “free for all” where everyone can talk, use a web cam etc.
- Limited to 100 attendees – you would need to purchase a monthly subscription (currently $40 a month) to increase attendance to 250. I’ve talked to the creators of BigMarker and they are working on larger seating plans for 500 and 1,000 attendees.
- Recordings – right now there is no way to download your recording of a webinar or meeting. There are options to upload them to BigMarker’s YouTube channel as well as your own YouTube channel. But an export is needed if a society wanted to place the recording behind its member’s only section.
There was a major issue with the recording from the Creating a Blog Header Using PowerPoint webinar last evening. The portion of the recording where I shared my screen to show PowerPoint (the majority of the recording) is not visible. This is a limitation of the “room type” which I selected for the webinar.
Currently, BigMarker is transitioning between two different types of webinar rooms and migrating towards one which is non-Flash based. I opted not to use that room type because a) it limits attendees to 25 people right now and b) it has limitations for attendees in terms of browser type etc. I chose Door #1, as it were, not realizing that what I shared on screen would not appear on the recording.
So lesson learned. I think that BigMarker is still a concept “in development” at least when it comes to webinars. BigMarker is likely a good choice for the conventional webinar were you share slides, but it may not work for those speakers like me who do quite a bit of screen sharing and demonstrating apps and sites on the Internet.
We’ll keep an eye on BigMarker and see how things go over the next few weeks and months.
We’re almost five years into the “webinar revolution” in the genealogy industry and it looks like BigMarker is a platform that could serve many of our societies and organizations. My only concern right now is for those larger societies who run a year-long program of webinars and count on placing the recorded content behind their members only section. I’m not sure I would leave the reliability of GoToWebinar – even with its expense – to migrate to BigMarker.
As with all new programs and platforms, only time will tell. I think BigMarker is a keeper and I may continue using it for free webinars to generate interest in my own books and lectures. I’d love it if a year from now, BigMarker becomes a leader in the webinar delivery business and can continue to provide its user-friendly platform especially to larger audiences of 500 or 1000 attendees.
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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statements.
©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.