All this talk of collaboration got me thinking about what Skype told me this week, namely that its early version of Skypecast--live, moderated discussions that allow groups of Skype users worldwide to discuss shared interests--will add a new dimension to online communities everywhere. In fact, it's possible that Skypecasts will soon be embraced by bloggers who want to complement their written Web blogs with a conversational equivalent.In summary, Skypecasts are designed for communities of people that want to talk about everything from favorite vacation spots to the latest celebrity gossip in a chat room-type setting. They're moderated by a "host" who can mute, eject, or pass a virtual microphone to participants when they wish to speak, which is a pretty cool feature for situations when an intruder tries to disrupt a conversation.
Skypecasts may not be an ideal collaboration tool for large businesses with privacy concerns because of their open nature. But they can be used by nonprofits and grassroots organizations to create forums, offer online classes and computer support, and conduct topical debates.
Skype's partners are also piloting Skypecasts. For example, Six Apart, a provider of blogging software and services for individuals and businesses, plans to promote Skypecasts to expand online blogging communities. Bloggers can schedule Skypecasts and link to them from their sites, so visitors using Skype can click to join discussions without leaving the blog site.
Skypecasts are for voice chats only right now, although Skype did roll out a video chat feature with its Skype 2.0 software in December. I wonder if Skypecasts will take off like chat rooms did a couple of years ago, when it was also extremely hip to be part of an online community. Of course, chat rooms raise a whole new set of issues, like concerns about kids potentially talking to sexual predators, but that deserves a separate discussion. Getting back to the topic of Skypecasts, I'm not sure if I'm ready to trade in my keyboard for a headset. Are you?