I get a lot of invitations for conference calls. And sometimes--sue me--I'm late to dial in, or I just plain forget. Awkwardness follows. A new telephone conference system, Gaboogie, can prevent this gaffe, by proactively calling all participants when a conference is scheduled to start.
I tried the service and like the concept, but I ran into a few snags.
Good news first: It works as advertised. You schedule a call for a particular time, enter in the names and numbers of the participants, and then Gaboogie calls everyone at the appointed time and puts them in the conference. The conference organizer also gets a very useful online console that lets him or her see who's on the call, change the volume of individual lines, dump people off the call, invite new people, and turn on a recorder. After a call, you can download the recording.
Despite the ease of call management, which I really liked, the three-day-old Gaboogie has both technical problems and a slight work flow problem, which is this: With other conference call systems, you don't need to know the phone number of the person you're inviting in. You send them the dial-in code, and they call in when they are ready. With Gaboogie, you need to know a person's number to invite them in. That might be a slight social problem (maybe the other person doesn't want to give you his or her number), and it is for sure a work flow problem: you've got to run around finding phone numbers you may not have. I talked to Gaboogie's founders, Erik Lagerway and Dan Gibbons, and they said they may consider dropping the phone number requirement at some point. But for now, if you want to invite people, you have to know their digits.
There are technical improvements needed as well: Gaboogie is supposed to e-mail people in advance to tell them they've been scheduled for a call; today that feature wasn't working. Also, the system can't currently handle calling people who are on switchboard extensions, but Gibbons did tell me that he's going to fix that. Finally, there's a lag (a delay between people speaking and other people hearing what they say) on calls that's somewhat worse than a bad cell phone connection, and it makes conversations awkward.
Future features will include Webcasting of conference calls (for listeners only; active participants will have to dial in) and integration with VoIP systems like Skype. Gaboogie's wacko name isn't due to change, though.
The service costs between 5 and 12 cents per caller minute, but you can get 100 minutes free when you sign up (without entering in your credit card--nice).
This is a very clever new conference system. I'd give its a creators a few weeks to iron out kinks and then I think it will be worth using.