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New Collaboration Tool: Sessions (Beta)

What are sessions?

A new set of tools to aid in collaborating with askers. This new option will be available for all questions posted to the site.

Starting next week, you can help users on site by starting a session. When in a session, you have access to multiple real-time collaboration tools: text, voice, and video chat with optional screen sharing.

Only you (an expert) can start a session, and you are in control of what tools you use during a session.
Give it a try on my question, "How would you use sessions?"

Why did you create sessions?

This is part of a continued effort to be the preferred and recognized choice for individuals and professionals who are looking to solve technology problems.

We’re all used to having tools like Skype and Google Hangouts in our day-to-day professional environment. We use them to exchange information with high efficiency in any given situation. We want the same features you’ve come to expect when collaborating with colleagues and other professionals to be available when you’re helping on Experts Exchange.

Why would I use sessions?

Direct communication.

You see it often--someone asks a question, but they haven’t included nearly enough information. In order to even begin solving the problem, you’ll need to go back and forth multiple times just to get started. In the end, something that could have been answered in a few minutes is stretched across an entire day or longer.

With a session, you can hop directly into a real-time conversation and get the details you need in the way that works best for you:
  • Just need to work through some quick clarification? Chat via text.
  • Don’t want to spend time texting back and forth? Turn on voice chat.
  • Need to see the user’s desktop? Have them share their screen.
  • Need to look at the actual device the user is referencing? Have them turn on video.

How do sessions work?

Sessions function similar to many of the collaboration tools you’re already familiar with using.

Starting a Session

When an asker is viewing their question, you’ll see the option to “Start Session” below the comment box:
If the user has navigated away from the page, their status will appear as offline:
If the user is already in a session, their status will appear as unavailable:
In the following example user experience, “Lucas Bishop” is the expert and “Bill Torchia” is the asker.

When you click “Start Session,” the question asker will be prompted to accept the session with the following message:

Navigating the Interface

You (the expert) will enter into the session in a new browser tab while the asker decides to accept or decline the invite:
Once the asker accepts the session invite, they will show up in the lower right corner of your interface:
You can begin communicating via the text input box in the lower left corner:
You can exit the session at any time with the red hang-up icon:
You’ll be given an opportunity to summarize the help you provided during the session. Your summary will be posted as a comment to the original question. The chat log will not be shown publicly:
The user will be able to choose your session as a solution to their question. They will be prompted to make this choice after the session, or they can also make this decision later through the normal question closing process:

Am I required to use voice, video, or screen share when I use sessions?

No. You have full control over which features you decide to use.

Why is “Start Session” only available when we are both viewing the question?

Missed connections are never a good experience, so at this stage, we’re making sure the tool is only available when both you and the asker are viewing the question at the same time.

Do sessions work in all browsers and devices?

We recommend using Google Chrome for the best experience with sessions, but Firefox also offers full functionality.

Microsoft Edge can be used for text, voice, and video conversations but does not support the screen sharing feature.

Internet Explorer and Safari are not supported at this time.

Browser support is exclusive to desktop and laptop browser versions. Phone and tablet devices are not supported at this time

Do I have to install anything to use sessions?

The only feature that requires client-side installation is screen sharing. If you choose to utilize this feature, a browser plugin is required.

Can I transfer files in sessions?

File transfer over a session is not supported at this time.

We're excited to present these options to you and eager to hear your impressions and feedback. Happy solving.
View Previous CommentsLoad All Comments (48)
Rank: Prodigy

Expert Comment

Martin Liss2019-01-14 03:38 PMID: 2451437
Unfortunately, support for IE and Safari could not be included for the beta but pending adoption and usage of sessions we would seek to include support for all browsers supported on the site (including Safari and the latest revision of IE).
OK, that's good, but no one has addressed my previous point that, apparently, the information shared between the asker and the expert in the session, since it's private, will give that expert an advantage and that's not fair.
Rank: Savant

Expert Comment

Mike McCracken2019-01-14 05:42 PMID: 2451445
While I agree with Martin that this will provide some experts with an "unfair" advantage there is another concern for the asker.  If the expert is not able to resolve the issue after a session, the asker may have to repeat the same or similar information to other experts in a session or to the experts through comments.

I probably can't be available during what I would consider the prime hours since I am busy during the day with a job and it wouldn't be fair to my employer or the clients I serve to take any appreciable amount of time to work a session with an EE asker.  

I would hope that a question that is answered in the session would at least include a comment that is the answer rather than just being marked as resolved.  This could be done simply by capturing the conversation between the asker and expert particularly if it is through basically a online chat session.  A session that includes voice communication or screen sharing is more problematic due the difficulty in capturing voice and concerns over the data being shared.

It may be helpful to at least know the expert is still online or looking at the question as comments may get rapid responses which can be almost as good as a private session.
Rank: Genius

Expert Comment

Andrew Leniart2019-01-14 06:17 PMID: 2451451
It may be helpful to at least know the expert is still online

Agree with that idea. I brought that suggestion up in another group discussion I can't seem to locate right now, but it's certainly something I'd find useful in many circumstances.
Rank: Prodigy

Expert Comment

PortletPaul2019-01-17 04:00 PMID: 2451809
My initial reaction is negative and this is largely due to what I perceive to be a "time zone bias" and the difficulty I have had getting responses from askers as my time zone is most often way different to theirs. In the very few Live requests I have ever received they were overwhelmingly outside my work times and I suspect it will be much the same for this facility as well. I would really like to know the typical "periods of activity" for askers.

Also, If the motivation for this effort is to reduce the time to solution, then 2 main factors come in to play:

1: (by Bill Prew)
>>"In my experience 90+% of the questions I see have prior solutions in questions or articles.  Meaning that visitors could actually get their own answer with no wait time for an expert to restate what has already been stated in the past. "

2: There is a time-proven technique for getting questions resolved quickly (at least in the topics I work with) . Supply sample data and the expected result with the question. The absence of these 2 items will almost guarantee delays and misunderstandings

Author Comment

Christopher Rourke2019-01-28 03:02 PMID: 2453221
Greetings again all,

My apologies for the delay. The last release of Google Chrome required changes to how our screen sharing extension was installed and functioned before activating the beta. Those fixes have been released and we are in the process of enabling the beta right now.

I'll also be posting a question to the Experts Exchange topic, "How would you use sessions?", so experts can try sessions with me and provide feedback.

Best Regards,
Christopher Rourke
Rank: Elite

Expert Comment

I've got a Suggestion.....

The text or comments which is entered after the session ends, at present it just gets submitted to the Question and Answer Thread ....

and it does not make sense in the Q&A thread....

is it possible to somehow, add this was from the Session ?

e.g. End Session Comment