Fed up with Skype? Here Are 6 of the Best Free Alternatives

For a long time, Skype was the world leader when it came to VoIP apps. It was so popular, in fact, that “Skyping” became a verb. But with so many complaints of low quality calls, too many crashes, and a general distrust of Microsoft, for many, Skype lost its appeal, despite its recent overhauls.

Since Skype’s heyday, however, many other apps have launched that enable you to call others from your devices. If you’re fed up with Skype then, you might want to try these alternatives.

For something much simpler than Skype, a service like Appear.in might be for you. If you want something with even more features, try out Viber. And then there are all the options in between.

1. Google Hangouts (Web, Android, iOS)

A direct competitor to Skype, offering free user-to-user calls and (mostly) free calls within the U.S. and Canada.

Since its launch just a few short years ago, Google Hangouts has rapidly grown to rival Skype in terms of user numbers while, according to many, surpassing Skype’s call quality.

While you could use Hangouts as just another messaging app, that’s the last thing we need. It’s first-and-foremost a way for you to voice and video call up to 10 contacts (simultaneously) on iOS, and Android. The regular Google Hangouts Web app is pretty impressive, too. On your smartphone, this works over data (or Wi-Fi if you’re connected), so calls over Hangouts do not use any of your included minutes.

The contacts that Google Hangouts adds to your account can be both from your phone contacts, and your email contacts. If those contacts are Google Hangout users, you can call them entirely for free. You can call landlines and mobiles from Hangouts, too.

Almost all calls to Canada and the US are entirely free from any country where Hangouts is available. To make other calls though, you’ll have to add some credit to your account., and pay a relatively small per-minute call charge.

2. Appear.In (Web, iOS)

One of the easiest ways to start a voice or video call. No sign ups, no downloads.If you want an incredibly simple way to start a call, Appear.in is what you’re looking for. You don’t need to sign up to anything. You don’t even need to download anything! There is an iOS app, though, if you’re interested.

Simply create a “Room” link, and share that link with whoever you want to chat with (up to eight people). When a recipient clicks the link, the room will open in their browser (this works on mobile, too).

You can choose to either have a voice or video call, and you can also share your screen. And if you’re worried about privacy, you can “lock” your call to prevent anyone else from joining if they somehow found your unique link.

3. ooVoo (Web, Android, iOS, Windows, Mac)

Like WhatsApp, you can make domestic and international calls too.

Like a lovechild between WhatsApp and Skype, ooVoo is a free cross platform (Android, iOS, Windows, Web) app that allows free calls to other ooVoo users, and paid calls to landlines and mobiles. It’s group video calls are of particularly high quality, which is the main reason it’s included in this list.

If you start a Web-Based ooVoo chat, up to 12 people can join for free, without signing up or downloading anything. All you have to do is send them a unique link. All calls can be recorded, and screens can be shared.

It’s unlikely many of your contacts use the app, but if they do, it also doubles up as a messaging app, where you can record and send text messages and videos. It’s basically like WhatsApp, but also allows calls to landlines and web-based calls to non-users.

5. Talky (Web, iOS)

Like Appear.In, an extremely easy way to host a group video chat. No download required.

Just like Appear.in, Talky sells itself as “a truly simple video chat [with] screen sharing for groups”.

Again, simply pick a room name, get a unique URL, then share this URL with up to 15 people. The call is then accessible via each person’s browser (or via the iOS app).

Once a call is live, you can easily turn your webcam or microphone on and off, and chat via text. Once everyone’s online, you can also lock the call for extra privacy.

And again like Appear.In, you can’t use Talky to make international or domestic calls.

6. Voca (Android, iOS)

Free user-to-user calls, and some of the cheapest international calls on the market.

Working through your Wi-Fi or data connection, Voca gives you extremely easy access to very affordable international calls to over 230 countries. For instance, U.S.-to-U.S. calls to landlines and phones cost $0.001. You can find full rates on Voca’s site.

If your friends and family are also using the app, then text, voice, and video calls are completely free, though the app will use your data if you’re not connected to Wi-Fi. For the security conscious, all calls and messages are encrypted.

And, The App You Know About: WhatsApp

Free voice or video calls to any other WhatsApp users (on mobile). But no calls to anyone who’s not on WhatsApp.And then we have WhatsApp (and its security-obsessed alternatives). Although the app is available on Android, iOS, Windows, Desktop, and Web, WhatsApp calls are only available on Android, iOS and Windows.

It’s popularity in the U.S., Canada, Europe (and elsewhere) has seen the app attract over one billion users. At first, the app was mainly just for messaging your friends. Now it’s grown to also offer voice and video calling. These calls are made via your data plan, not over your network (so you may be charged for using data, but not your included minutes).

When using WhatsApp’s call features, you can only call other WhatsApp users (one person at a time, no group calls). If they don’t have WhatsApp, you can easily send them an invite.

Will You be Abandoning Skype?

Although Skype is usually the default option for calls over the internet, there are many great alternatives out there. These range from the super simple, to the feature-rich, with plenty in between.

Do you think any of these will be good enough for you to start moving away from Skype?

If so, what frustrated you so much about Skype to make you start searching for alternatives?

Originally written by Joel Lee on Sep 7, 2012.

The freelancer and the entrepreneur

Which are you?

A freelancer is someone who gets paid for her work. She charges by the hour or perhaps by the project. Freelancers write, design, consult, advise, do taxes and hang wallpaper. Freelancing is the single easiest way to start a new business.

Entrepreneurs use money (preferably someone else’s money) to build a business bigger than themselves. Entrepreneurs make money when they sleep. Entrepreneurs focus on growth and on scaling the systems that they build. The more, the better.

The goal of a freelancer is to have a steady job with no boss, to do great work, to gradually increase demand so that the hourly wage goes up and the quality of gigs goes up too.

The goal of the entrepreneur is to sell out for a lot of money, or to build a long-term profit machine that is steady, stable and not particularly risky to run. The entrepreneur builds an organization that creates change.

The trap is simple: Sometime freelancers get entrepreneur-envy and start hiring other freelancers to work for them. This doesn’t scale. Managing freelancers is different from being a freelancer. Managing freelancers and saving the best projects for yourself gets you into trouble. The cash flow gets you into trouble. Investors don’t want to invest in you because you can’t sell out if you’re a freelancer at heart.

If you’re an entrepreneur, it is impossible to succeed by using your own labor to fill the gaps. That’s because your labor is finite. It doesn’t scale. If it’s a job only you can do, you’re not building a system, you’re just hiring yourself (and probably not paying enough either).

This problem has been around for awhile, and it’s tempting to think that more effort can let us solve it — that we can be both. New tools give freelancers more leverage than ever before, and our culture continues to push us to get big, right now.

The thing is, more effort can’t solve this dilemma for you. Sooner or later, more effort doesn’t scale. Travis doesn’t drive the Uber that picks you up, Sheryl doesn’t do any coding and Jacqueline can’t work with every investment, every day.

The solution is surprisingly easy.

If you’re a freelancer, freelance. Figure out how to do the best work in your field, the best work for the right clients. Don’t fret about turning away work, and don’t fret about occasional down time. You’re a freelance for hire, and you need to focus on your reputation and the flow of business. Find leverage in the form of assistants and outsource the commodities if you can, but your work is always going to be your work.

Freelancers get ahead by becoming more in demand, by charging more (and being worth it). They get ahead by being more connected, smarter, more effective.

If you’re an entrepreneur, don’t hire yourself. Build a business that works, that thrives with or without you. It might not be good for your ego, but it will be good for your bank account.

It’s possible to switch hats, to have side projects, to have two ‘jobs’. But we can’t wear both hats at the same time, can’t freelance our way to entrepreneurial success.

Reblogged from www.medium.com

Giving a Keynote Speech That Everyone Will Remember

What makes a keynote speech compelling? originally appeared on Quora – the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. In this post i borrowed the mind of Josh Levs, Author, Former CNN & NPR Journo, on Quora on how to give a keynote that everyone will remember. 

Every keynote you do is an honor. Understanding this is the first, and most important, rule. Even when I have a busy week doing three keynotes in one city, or in three cities for that matter, I am acutely aware that my stepping onto each stage is the result of a group of organizers, and a hopeful audience, looking to me for deliverable.

So my job as keynote speaker is to make sure they get what they came for — and more. That means knowing about them, the organization, the reason they’re there. It means knowing the ethos and goals of the group. It also means knowing what else they’re hearing from other speakers that day.

That’s why I speak directly with the organizers of each event in advance, to find out whether they have specific requests for what I will and won’t touch on. It’s also why I try to attend as many of the other speeches and events as I can. I use that time to tweak and fine tune my talk, so it’s a natural accompaniment.

People respond to passion. So a great keynote is driven by that. When you’re passionate about what you’re there to say, people can feel it. When I train keynote speakers, I go over things like body language and eye contact that help invoke passion in a positive way.

It’s crucial to design your talk as a human story. You can’t be all about facts and figures. Share your journey as it relates to the topic. Take the audience on an emotional ride, through what you felt.

Be honest. People sense what’s fake very quickly. It’s a major turnoff.

Don’t boast. Talk about your struggles and failures as much as your successes, or even more. Explain the lessons you learned and how they apply to the topic.

I never write down what I’m going to say. I know that some people need to — particularly those who are invited to speak because of their fame, not because they’re particularly good speakers. But I feel much better just knowing the general order of the points I plan to make, looking at the audience the entire time, and talking.

Feel the energy in the room. Notice how people are responding. If they’re not focused on you, punch up your energy.

Don’t use lots of slides with lots of text and numbers. No one will remember what’s there. If you use slides, keep them simple with just a couple of points, all bolstering the central thesis. I like to use video clips and images along the way, but just a few.

Remember that every second you have up there is a gift, and treat it as such. This room full of people has given you one of the biggest gifts anyone can give — their time. The more you focus on earning and deserving that gift, the more the audience will see and appreciate you. They’ll know you respect them. And they’ll respect you.

This question originally appeared on Quora – the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

Executing strategy the best way possible

Of late my mind has been awash of many things, most importantly on how to go forward on the things i want to achieve.  I thought utilizing my skills more would earn me the extra cash which true but the execution on how i move forward is what keeps puzzling me.Of late i built a team of people i work with but how to implement the company strategy is still challenging: the key question i ask myself is:How can I align everyone’s efforts and help them accomplish the organization’s most important work? For a while this has got me thinking and i got in touch with a process called Big Arrow that has helped me work better. Here are a few tips i felt like sharing  on executing strategy effectively;

  • Define the Big Arrow (aligning the strategic direction of your company)
  • Once the big arrow is clear, we to identify highest impact people to enable forward the momentum of the company.
  • Determine What They Should Focus On

    Once we have established the key people, to work with each we work with them to determine their:

    • Key contribution to moving the Big Arrow forward
    • Pivotal strength that will allow them to make their key contribution
    • Game changer, the thing that, if the person improves, will most improve their ability to make their key contribution 
  • Hold laser -focused coaching sessions to  make clear headway on their key contribution to the Big Arrow.
  • Amplify performance

For info about the Big Arrow read the Harvard Business Review on Strategic Execution (More)

Thanks a million times

To everyone who reads and follows this blog, i would like to personally say thanks a million for all your support. 2016 was quite slow especially on the frequency of updates for this blog but we continue to provide you with the best in the development world. We believe information is a necessity and everyone is entitled to good quality information; so from myself and team, we wish you happy holidays and  profitable new year.

cheers

ICT the game changer in development

Today I had a chance to attend the Vodafone Power Talks conference organized in Kampala. The conference had focus on ict innovations in the health and the impact they had in Africa. Noticing the many innovations shared I was pretty impressed as some could be taken on in other sectors. Among the most interesting things was how mhealth and mvaccine have reduced the time lag for patients to access information from doctors and viceverse. This indeed has enabled greater improvements in health in Uganda and Africa wide. Ict indeed is the future though faced with challenges especially issues of poor network/connectivity and moving to scale in the rural areas. Secondly ICT4Dev is still limited to mobile phones and limited use of other gadgets like computers and laptops. I feel ICT is the game changer even with the limitations, it’s still the way to go.

Hacked

Most people manage multiple online accounts for a variety of uses””from multiple email addresses to online shopping accounts or online banking, the average person accesses an account containing personal information at least once a day. Whether you manage large quantities of financial information via an online account, or you simply have personal information associated with your social media accounts, chances are you would hate for that information to fall into someone else’s hands.

However, sometimes keeping your private information private isn’t as easy as it should be. 75% of Americans have fallen or will fall victim to some sort of cyber crime due to having their accounts hacked. And among larger institutions, like corporations or even universities, when data for large amounts of people is stored all in one central location, the risk for being hacked is even higher. In fact, about 90% of corporations report suffering some sort of system breach over the course of the past 12 months. Being hacked can feel tough to avoid, especially after it’s happened to you, but handling your personal, online accounts responsibly and safely is more important than ever. If you want to keep your information safe, your line of defense starts with a solid, reliable password.

 

Hacked Infographic

Adapted from onlinecollegecourses.com

Innovative communication

During one of the board meetings at my organization, i was tasked to come up with communication strategies that would push our organization to the “world map” and improve its image both in the country and the world at large.  From experience this would be easy to do  since the organization has a website and information is frequently shared,  however this doesn’t do the trick.  I started thinking of innovative ways that would push  for  increased the web view statistics and also  learning within and outside the organization which led me to a simple innovative guide that helped me plan effectively .

In an article published in the guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk ) a panel of experts gave fifteen ways on the need for communication  in aid work and how to get it right.  These include:

People engage best with people, not abstract issues: Single case-study stories done properly can illustrate wider issue in a real, accessible and relevant way. But most information gathering is NOT geared to this. Most programmes gather information to populate their log frame KPIs in a very static and lifeless way.

Communicate the difference people can make: As a fundraiser, what motivates supporters is communicating the difference people can make to a problem. That means showing the need with the opportunity for improvement. The spirit and dignity of people is part of that.

Be honest about your own agenda: Charities choose who to show solidarity towards depending on their own agenda, and fund according to their priorities. When a campaign is focused on complicated policy outcomes without adequate attention to how they are relevant to people, people can’t see how they can engage.

Celebrities can help capitalise on news coverage: Very few issues, countries or organisations stay on top of the news agenda for long, but the use of celebrities is one way of tapping into it. The responsibility of each group is to do their jobs and make sure they don’t make anything worse than it already is, but I’d see celebrity involvement for what it is: helpful, high impact and potentially catalytic, but not a substitute for many other aspects of an organisation’s or individual’s goals.

Agencies should adapt to aid’s increasing insignificance: While still being significant to people, aid is less so for economies with the emergence of other means of development such as remittances. Unless agencies adapt they will find themselves tumbling down the hierarchy. One of my colleagues Andrew Rogerson even said they face an ‘existential threat‘.

Find a private sector partner: Recruit one company as your champion, so it can push your cause among peers. It can be useful to give them a platform to make the announcement that they’re changing their policies or donating funds, for example.

Strategic communications can change policy: For example, the Global Monitoring Report released new figures on the state of education in Pakistan in October last year and used the figures to campaign in the press in the aftermath of the tragic shooting of Malala. The statistics were picked up by Pakistani politicians and by Gordon Brown in his role as UN special envoy. This media work contributed to the country making the positive decisions it did to find more funds for education and passing the free education bill.

Monitor everything: Integrating communications and continually monitoring progress and impact can be really useful. You can start to pull out what worked and what didn’t and adjust your approach accordingly. It’s also a great opportunity to look back at what could have been done to increase impact.

Know your audience: Research is key to clearly identify target audience, where they get their information from and how they communicate. It’s then possible to tailor your message and test it, but don’t assume people will get it.

Be led by people in relevant countries: International campaigning can support this and can help to tackle the international issues of the role of outside governments and corporations, but is never enough on its own.

Shift from compassion to solidarity campaigning: Corporate tax dodging is wrong because failure of multinationals to pay their taxes in Zambia means that the country is deprived of the money needed for schools, health and support to farmers. But the same tax dodging also hurts people in the west. So the campaign against tax dodging isn’t a north-south let’s help them thing – it’s a together-we-are-powerful 99% thing.

Select the relevant data: One cannot reasonably paint the whole picture and hope to be targeting the right audience. The hard balance to find is between saying what pays off and sticking with the whole story you are supposed to tell. Our utmost concern as communicators should be to ensure the integrity of our message and that it is in sync with our mission. We owe that transparency to our audiences and donors.

Do more with less by being inventive: Particularly for small NGOs, a lack of resources can be a big obstacle effective communications. Overcome this by drawing on freelancers, opening competitions among students, daring to ask for pro bono, being efficient in your use of social media to relay your messages and finding synergies with strategically-chosen partners. That will be the best way to convince a disapproving majority.

Face the critics: It is fair to raise concerns about the way that aid can be misused or misguided, or ask whether it’s right to ring-fence development aid. More aid organizations should openly explain their case and stand up for what they believe in.

Listen to people on the ground: I think it’s important to talk with the people you have working on the ground and hear from them what the real problems are/what’s needed, before you get round the table in HQ and devise the comms tools to suit. Don’t assume you already know the answer, because things are rarely as simple as they seem.

Learning by adaptation

In most of the books that i have come in touch with, the word learning literally means the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, practice, or study, or by being taught or measurable and relatively permanent change in behavior through experience, instruction, or study. Whereas individual learning is selective, group learning is essentially political its outcomes depend largely on power playing in the group. Learning itself cannot be measured, but its results can be. In the words of Harvard Business School psychologist Chris Argyris, learning is “detection and correction of error” where an error means “any mismatch between our intentions and what actually happens.” Human learning may occur as part of education, personal development, schooling, or training. It may be goal-oriented and may be aided by motivation.

In community structures a lot of learning takes whether in a small village meeting, sub county dialogues and even at districts. This kind of learning is in most cases not documented even though its aimed at creating a permanent  positive change in a community. For example  a village dialogue about eliminating defecation in water ponds will create a lasting impact in the community because one person has talked about. This kind of learning is called adaptation learning.

Darwin ‘s Adaptation theory, also known as survival theory or survival of the fittest, is an organism’s ability to adapt to changes in its environment and adjust accordingly over time. Adaptations occur over generations of a species with those traits that help an individual animal eat and mate most profusely being passed down from generation to generation until the whole species changes to be better suited to their environment.This theory explains man ‘s ability to adapt to any environment basing on what others are doing at a particular time.

The idea of Community Led total Sanitation (CLTs) which focuses on eliminating open defecation (OD) where Communities are facilitated to conduct their own appraisal and analysis of open defecation (OD) and take their own action to become ODF (open defecation free) uses the same concept of adaptation.CLTS focuses on the behavioural change needed to ensure real and sustainable improvements – investing in community mobilisation instead of hardware, and shifting the focus from toilet construction for individual households to the creation of open defecation-free villages. The big idea comes through when individuals shift from what everyone seems to used to and adapting to health sustainable ways.

Transfer of learning is the application of skill, knowledge or understanding to resolve a novel problem or situation. which happens when certain conditions are fulfilled. Research indicates that learning transfer is infrequent; most common when “… cued, primed, and guided…”[22] and has sought to clarify what it is, and how it might be promoted through instruction. However whichever method that knowledge is transferred, adaptation is key in ensuring behaviour change at any level.

                      My imagination of how learning at institutional level occurs

References

www.wikpedia.com

www.bussinessdictionary.com

http://www.communityledtotalsanitation.org

20 liters a day

For many people there is not a day that goes by without using water. We take a shower in the morning, make coffee during breakfast, clean our clothes in the washing machine and wash our hands after using the bathroom. Can you imagine a day without water? I sure can’t… In Uganda an average household uses 20 liters per person per day. What we don’t realize every time we open the tap is that water isn’t available in all parts of the country. The lack of clean water usage leads to a lot of hygiene related health problems.

A life changer

In Uganda millions of people have access to a mobile phone. For Ugandans mobile phones seem to be more than a device used to communicate, rather they are a way of life. One single text message can make a big difference. Why not use this knowledge to improve the hygiene and access to sanitation facilities?

In 2013 NETWAS Uganda partnered SMSONE to set up their first SMS campaign in Bombo through the DANIDA funded good governance project. Here water users are able to communicate with the service provider through a sms text. So the initiative has reached over a hundred people who are able to send an sms through the toll free numbers.