Building Voodle V1 – Feature Log Spring 2020

April 1, 2020

Building Voodle V1 - Feature Log Spring 2020

Well we are cranking away on our V1 of voodle and are in private testing right now with the first dozens of teams/users, ramping up to 100s in the weeks ahead. Here’s a ongoing list of what is included and working, and what we are contemplating next. I will update this post as we go as a kind of live-stream of feature work.

April 1, 2020

Voodle's UI for single-sign on using Slack credentials and groups.
Here’s our initial sign-in experience, very focused on using existing Slack workgroups; this gives Voodle a graph of channels and direct-message (DM) targets so you can share your voodles through Slack.

The core functionality for our first beta release include:

  • Voodle for iOS available through TestFlight for beta users.
  • Voodle Web app available on http://app.voodle.me
  • Single-Sign-in using Slack (Figure 1 and 2)
  • iOS support for making Voodles (recording short videos), and posting to both the Voodle Pool, as well as Slack channels and DM recipients (Figure 3, 8, 9, 10)
  • Automatic audio-to-text transcriptions for English language, which will analyze each voodle and create a transcript of words that are matched against moments in time in the voodle video (Figure 12)
  • User settings to sign-out (to switch to a different Slack workspace)
  • User Profiles to see all voodles from a single user (Figure 4, 13)
The iOS interface for the voodle pool and individual voodle playback
From the main voodle “pool” screen, you can hit the “+” button to start recording a voodle, then post it to a slack channel or just to the pool itself. All videos live in one big “pool” which is searchable knowledgebase. Even if you DM a voodle, it still lives in the open-to-all knowledgebase!

On both iOS and Web app, Voodle supports:

  • Viewing the Voodle “Pools” – the group of voodles that are associated with a team, all of which live in a “pool” which is a large knowledge-base that is searchable (Figure 6 and 7, 13)
  • Playing back with speed control of 1, 1.5, 2x with audio pitch correction, and with overlayed Closed Captioning style subtitles (Figure 11, 15)
  • Transcript support for playing back with closed-captioning text overlays which is useful to enhance understanding, to watch in public while sound is muted, or to scan through the transcript and click/jump to specific moments in the voodle (Figure 12)
  • Juicybits playback allows a search query/group to be conjoined into one video and played as a single stream. So if you search for voodles in the pool with #mydog, you can watch a single playback of a video that shows all videos with #mydog as a hashtag. Imagine queries for “sales account X, in last 72 hrs”, or “status of operations Y, in last 7 days”. This feature’s usability is being improved, but the basics are in place now.
The web interface for the voodle pool and individual voodle playback
The voodle web experience (chrome browser first!) allows browsing and playing of voodles from the pool, or a focused user/maker.
The "juicybits" playback button in voodle, which plays multiple videos together as though they were 1 single video
Juicybits button appears (Figure 16) in both web and iOS Voodle app, to allow playback of multiple voodles as one amalgamated video stream. During playback (Figure 17) there are next/previous buttons to advance through individual voodles.

April 13, 2020

We learned a ton about the friction of SSO with Slack. To our surprise (but now seems self-evident) Slack is very hard to administer, and our beta testers all requested other options for signing in to Voodle: Google, Zoom, and Ad-Hoc networks built from scratch, especially for quick testing of Voodle. We quickly added a few additional features that “de-tangled” us from Slack dependencies:

The addition of google and microsoft SSO, and sharing and unfurling of Voodles
We cleaned up Sharing by switching to the more common/expected “Share” button, which prompts a iOS level screen with many options for posting a deep-link URL that will take viewer to Voodle iOS App or Voodle Web for playback. The URLs not have richer “unfurl” data.
  • Google GSuite Single-Sign-On (SSO) so a team can join using their existing GSuite org (user names, name of org, and photos of users are the only data we access) (Figure 18 and 25)
  • We de-entangled from Slack by reducing the privileges we require to SSO with Slack; we only ask for username, photos, and org name–and DO NOT request permission to gain a list of channel names. The benefit of our app having channel names was not warranted for sign-up evaluation. Slack sign-on is thus now easier/less of a commitment.
  • General “Share” button (Figure 19) for all voodles, which taps into iOS general sharing of a URL to the voodle (Figure 20). This URL will deep-link to Voodle on iOS, or to Voodle Web if on a pc/desktop. The Share-URLs are a more general way to share–but they still require authentication and access to the “voodle pool” to actually playback.
  • Richer Unfurl URLs in slack and elsewhere (Figure 21) that now include the voice-transcription as a preview of the content of the voodle.

May 5, 2020

We made major changes to our information structure so that we can support the traditional GROUP:CHANNEL:THREAD organization that is so common in unified communication applications. This entailed a hard-reset on test-accounts so we are asking all testers to start with fresh accounts, thank you for your understanding. Going forward you will see the following structure:

  • Groups. A group is what Slack calls a Workgroup and Microsoft Teams calls a Team. It is the top-level organization concept, of all members that together share a space for voodles. Our release today allows creating a named Group (Figure 22-25), irrespective of how people sign-in to Voodle. Previously, we had tied SSO (sign-on) to Group — which was complicating testing for our users who wanted to create “adhoc groups” of friends or colleagues to test with.
  • Channels. A Group contains multiple Channels, which allow sub-segmenting members into themes. This is how Slack and Microsoft Teams work–same concept. Channels will have members and therefore can be used to create more private pools of voodles. We have not yet activated Channels, they are coming in the next few weeks.
  • Threads. Like Slack, a Thread will be a discussion about a specific voodle post. So as users react, ask questions, etc. – a discussion about a voodle. This is coming in next release.
Voodle support for naming groups, creating groups, and inviting team-mates to join a group
On Signup we now ask you to define your GROUP name. Groups are like Workspaces in Slack, or Teams in Microsoft Teams — they are the largest container for a collection of users. We are adding Channels and Threads in coming release, so that the information architecture of Voodles mirrors the familiar Slack and Teams structure common in Unified Communication apps in 2020.

June 3, 2020

On our march to supporting multiple groups and channels (to better focus and organize voodle posts and comments/reactions/discussions), we have bitten-the-bullet and added traditional email+password account creation (figures 27 and 28). You can now use email+password, or google or microsoft SSO. For now, each of these credentials gets you access to only 1 “group”. If you are testing with colleagues at work, use one of these, and you can use another email/SSO, for a friends/separate Voodle “pool” or group.

Sign on to voodle app,. using a traditional email and password, as well as Google SSO or Microsoft SSO
Now support traditional email+password accounts, as well as Google and Microsoft SSO with corporate email.

We started adding in much requested and needed Social Signals & Dopamine hits based on activities, so when your voodles are watched/liked/commented, you will get notifications on iOS (Figure 26). We are tracking many elements of user engagement and will add more alerts/notifications and feedback loops in coming releases.

Voodle app notifications on iOS and on a Apple Watch
Notifications on social engagement and other activity feedback now appear within iOS ecosystem (phone/watch/etc.)

Both mobile and web interface now have highlighted voodle sections for Trending and Most-Watched (figure 29 mobile, figure 30 web). We have the back-end built to surface more groupings. Hashtags for example now are click-able to focus search/discovery on sub-sets of the voodle pool. If a voodle is tagged with #work-from-home, clicking on that will bring up a focused view of all voodles with that hashtag (figure 22)

The new "trending" section of the voodle pool
Trending section now includes most popular, most watched, etc. type rankings of recent voodles. This section stands apart from “Latest” which is the pure chronological stream of posted voodles.
a screenshot of the improved UI that shows latest, trending, and other attributes of voodles
In process UI enhancements to Voodle Web, with better search and discovery features.

June 11, 2020

Channels are coming together nicely. Channels allow “focused areas of discussion” with a #named space that can be kept private to a subset of users in the Voodle group. You can select a channel or create a new channel (Figure 31) flow the fly-out list on the left side of screen. This is also where you can select Trending or Latest, or find a specific persons voodles to view.

The settings for a channel include channel-name and selected users (Figure 32). Once a channel is being viewed it’s name appears at top of screen above the voodles, with a (i) button to access its settings (Figure 32).

make channels, change their names and who the members are, for your voodles
Channels allow focused voodle-posts that are private to members of the channel. You can made #channels, edit the members of the channel, and change the name or delete a channel. Voodles posted to a channel that are deleted to not get deleted, rather, they remain in the makers collection of voodles–and can be re-posted to general or other channels.

Custom thumbnail picker is now part of posting, so you can select optimal thumbnail.cover frame to represent a voodle post. In the Figure 34 example i pick an alternate frame to the auto-generated one proposed after recording.

custom thumbnail selection for voodles
You can now select a custom thumbnail for the voodle’s cover.

June 29th, Launch of V1!

And we are launched… how exciting! It has been a great run-up, our team feels really proud of what we’ve built and we can’t wait to hear feedback from full-live users who can now get the app directly from the Apple iOS App Store here.

We are of course also not entirely proud/satisfied with this release, which is a good indication that we haven’t waited too long to ship! Still in development and arriving very soon (eg: in July 2020) are features like:

  • Our search queries will gain sifting and auto-complete/recommendations to help you focus your search and discovery
  • Ad-hoc group creation, so you can build arbitrary new groups/pools, and not have to rely on Slack/etc. for SSO. Single-Sign-in using Microsoft Teams, Cisco Teams, Zoom, Facebook Workgroups.
  • Comments–so you can chat with text or other voodles, about voodles.
  • And much, much more…
Voodle v1 is now available on the Apple app store here.