I am experimenting with a potential Virtual Knowledge Cafe platform - Zoom Meetings. The experiment is confined to my local time zone right now but if all goes well I will open it up globally. (Download Zoom and connect with me if you wish to play with it.)
If you don't want to read too much - just watch these two videos and you will see why I think it will make a viable platform for Virtual Knowledge Cafes.
Ignore the content - just see the format :-)
Now read on if you wish to know a little more.
Zoom is a relatively new (January 2013) cloud-based video meeting system.
You can read more about the company here.
It is inexpensive, easy to use, can handle the requisite number of users for a Knowledge Café. Not only can it be accessed through your Windows or Mac desktops but also through your Apple or Android smartphone or tablet. The quality seems good and I am told it is stable.
Critically it has a break-out room capability where the Café host can randomly assign participants to one of several break-out rooms for small group conversations.
I don't know of any other video meeting system that meets all these criteria. (break-out rooms, numbers and cost being key.)
There are two versions of Zoom, a free basic version and a pro version that costs $15 per month. The pro version can host up to 50 participants.
The free version contains many of the key features of the Pro system except meetings are limited to 40 minutes.
So to host a virtual Knowledge Café, only the Café host needs to subscribe to the Pro version of Zoom (to get past the 40 minute limitation).
The Café participants need only the free Basic version.
As the Knowledge Café works best for less than 30 participants, 50 participants in not a limitation.
So all in all, it looks a viable technology platform for virtual Knowledge Cafés.
What will be interesting is how the dynamics differ to a face-to-face Café. I'll let you know how it goes.