Chris Kranky

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Sqwiggle: Someone is watching you

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

sqwiggle4Sqwiggle is an innovative WebRTC application that touches a entire new nerve about how we might communicate in the future. If you’re over 23 years old, prepare to be uncomfortable.  Like many great applications, Sqwiggle was purpose built to fix a problem. In the case of Sqwiggle, how do a group of programmers who were sitting in the same room together coding on a common project work together when suddenly they’re not in the same room. In short, Sqwiggle tries to electronically mimic how we might interact in person.

sqwiggle1Let me hit the uncomfortable piece first, when you have the Sqwiggle WebRTC powered window open, it takes a still webcam shot about every 10-15 seconds and elegantly displays it on your Sqwiggle team page. Your other Sqwiggle team mates can see your latest photo on their own window.  Basically it’s an easy way to tell if you’re there, on the phone or busy talking to someone. Just like if we were sitting in the same room.

If I want to talk to you, I can click on your picture and immediately speak to you, no ringing, no need to accept the call. It’s just as if I’d yelled at you across the room. Note the video fires up as well. If we want we can make the video window larger and other team mates can join the call as well. Sqwiggle also supports chatting among the team members and sending files as well.

sqwiggle2There is a lot to like about Sqwiggle. It’s clear they’ve given careful thought to how the application operates. No need to read a “getting started” manual. You figure it out very quickly. What they’ve done, they’ve done well.  With the various HTML5 powers (including WebRTC), the Sqwiggle team focuses on the app and not spending all their cycles trying to get the engine to start. This is exactly what Google envisioned with HTML5 elements.

I don’t think Sqwiggle will be around long though. Having not required a huge VC raise ($1.1m to date), this is an easy technology purchase by any number of collaboration folks (Atlassian, the large tools developer with their pitiful, but successful HipChat comes to mind). A nice 4x valuation and all are happy (including the local BMW dealer).

sqwiggle3The “always on” camera is to me one of the most important elements in discussion. In testing Sqwiggle, I got a few of my colleagues to attempt to use it. Despite being purported “high tech” people, they’re all  elderly > 30 years old, every one of them was extremely nervous about the webcam taking a picture of them. As a kid, I also remember my great aunt who dressed up to watch television thinking the people could see her as well (not kidding). They all also were concerned about me barging in with a voice chat (obviously they’re not old enough to remember the hey day of telephone systems which had off hook intercom capabilities). In the end, despite my urging to give it a chance, they didn’t like it.

I have at least 5 new business ideas for the basic ingredients of Sqwiggle for various general and specific vertical markets. But changing the current defacto mode of how we communicate is hard, even if it’s going to make things better. Nonetheless, change is now officially upon us and I eagerly await technology to help me better communicate.