Free tools for organizing online events

In these times of social distancing (due to the virus), online activities become even more important. What free and open-source tools are there to facilitate online events (for example online conferences)?

I have seen (and tested) so far Jitsi and BigBlueButton (for example see: https://bbb.fs.al). It seems that Jitsi is more suitable for informal meetings, while BBB is more suitable for presentations, lectures, webinars, online conferences, etc. And it is also very easy to install and setup (although a bit outdated).

Another system that I have tried is https://opencast.org . It was very easy to install (with docker-compose) but I couldn’t figure out how to use it properly (for example how to live-stream a conference).

I just wanted to share my experience (so far) and get any feedback from people who might have more experience with organizing online events or with live-streaming events.

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For voice-only meetings I can highly recommend mumble. The largest problem I see in these offerings for serious business use is the lack of identity management. It should be possible to easily authenticate people and authorize who can join each meeting.

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I believe that they have extensions (or plugins) that can do this (user authentication and authorization).

In the case of BigBlueButton, it is actually like an API and can be integrated with Moodle (and many other online teaching platforms). In this case the authentication and authorization of participants is done by Moodle (I think).

For the case of Jitsi, the name of the meeting room is a long and random string. You can send the URL of the meeting room to the people that you want to join, and for the others it will be almost impossible to guess or find it out. This is just security by obscurity, but it is better than nothing and most of the times it is Ok.

About Opencast (it is mostly used by universities for recording, storing and sharing online lectures), I think that it has a strong authorization system (with roles, groups, permissions, etc.).

Does Mumble support WebRTC? Can it be used from a web browser, without having to install a client? Maybe I should test it.

You may choose the meeting ID string yourself. Say you are having a meeting in the XYZ-project of your company on April 10, you just distribute the URL https://meet.jit.si/XYZ_project_meeting-2020-04-10 to all participants. And you can set a password for the meeting once in the meeting.

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I have become very satisfied with the Riot client for room- and person-person-based chat, as well as person-person video- and audio conferences. It is based on the Matrix.org-standard. Try out the web client here: https://riot.im/app, or download a client for your platform.

Random meeting URLs and passwords for each meeting are a serious usability challenge. Often the URL is included in a calendar invitation and the calendars in most companies are shared publicly to everyone else in the company.

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The URL is not for one-time use. The password is exactly for the case, where not everybody should be allowed to participate. If the company uses Outlook, what alternatives are there apart from Skype and Teams, if you want the URL hidden? Mumble?

This is my point, there don’t seem to be free software video conferencing solutions that would have scalable and easy to understand access control. I don’t want to speculate what non-free ones might exist here.

I agree that what you mention may be challenging for infants, elder people, and Apple users. But everrybody at my work seem to understand and are able to use URLs, links and passwords.

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