Electronic Document Provision to an Online Meeting

US 2011 264 745A1

drawing #0

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A system and method are presented for providing electronic documents to online meeting participants. The method schedules a first online meeting between network-connected computer devices. A meeting server establishes a repository for the first online meeting. The meeting server receives an electronically formatted document sent to a first communication address assigned to the first online meeting repository, and stores the document in the first online meeting repository. A first computer device is able to log into the meeting server and access the document from the first online meeting repository at a time prior to, during, or after the first online meeting. Likewise, the meeting server is able to store a document received prior to, during, or after the meeting.

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Claims

1. In a system of connected communication devices, a method for providing electronic documents to online meeting participants, the method comprising:
a meeting server establishing a repository for a first online meeting;
the meeting server receiving an electronically formatted document sent to a first communication address assigned to the first online meeting repository;
storing the document in the first online meeting repository;
a first computer device logging into the meeting server; and,
the first computer device accessing the document from the first online meeting repository.

Show 20 dependent claims

22. An electronic document provision system for online meetings, the system comprising:
a meeting server having a repository for a first online meeting, the meeting server receiving an electronically formatted document sent to a first communication address assigned to the first online meeting repository, at a time selected from a time selected from a group consisting of prior to, during, and after the first online meeting, and storing the document in the first online meeting repository; and,
a network-connected first computer device logging into the meeting server and accessing the document from the first online meeting repository at a time selected from a group consisting of prior to, during, and after the first online meeting.

Show 9 dependent claims

Description

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention generally relates to online and web conferencing meetings and, more particularly, to a means of requesting content in a live meeting from a non-meeting participant and sharing a document for presentation in the online meeting.

2. Description of the Related Art

Generally, the problem being addressed is the sharing of an electronic document in an online meeting (e.g., web conference), when the user has neither an application to share the document via an application sharing mode, or a web interface to upload the document for sharing (e.g., web enabled phone or multifunctional peripheral (MFP) scan-to-email). There are a number of well-known online meeting services that fail to adequately address this problem. These meeting services include: Cisco WebEx, Citrix GotoMeeting, Microsoft LiveMeeting, Adobe Connect, IBM Lotus Sametime, and DimDim.

FIG. 1 is a schematic block diagram depicting a method for remote document collaboration (prior art). As disclosed in US pending patent US2004/0172450, Method to initiate server based collaboration on e-mail attachments, a user initiates collaboration on a document by sending it as an attachment in an email. The email is first processed by a collaboration server, which extracts the documents to be shared and stores them on the collaboration server, and replaces the attachment in the email with a link to the document on the collaboration server. A collaboration session is then constructed by the service.

This method does not provide a solution for importing a document into an existing scheduled meeting, and does not provide a solution for importing a document into a live meeting, by either a non-participant or from a source that is not logged into the meeting service. The collaboration session is not a live simultaneous meeting. Instead, the document is stored as a shared document at an online document repository for collaboration by multiple users.

Another method for email based collaboration is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,182,080, System, method and computer program product for storage of a plurality of documents within a single file. In this method, a file container is constructed of a plurality of files for collaboration. An email list of collaborators is constructed, and the file container and email address list are sent to a collaboration server. The collaboration server constructs a first email message addressed to the first recipient. The message includes the file container and the recipient list minus the first recipient.

The first recipient, after receiving the email message, opens the message and edits the files in the file container. Upon completion (i.e., close message, or reply to collaboration server), the collaboration server constructs a second email message addressed to the next recipient in the recipient list. The message includes the edited file container and the recipient list minus the current recipient. The process is repeated until there are no recipients left.

This method does not provide a solution for importing a document into an existing scheduled meeting, and does not provide a solution for importing a document into a live meeting by either a non-participant or from a source that is not logged into the meeting service. The collaboration session disclosed is not a live meeting. Instead, it's an offline coordinated round-robin editing of a document.

FIG. 2 is a schematic block diagram depicting a printer method for sending documents (pending art). In this method, a printer has an email address, which can be used to send documents for printing. A user attaches the documents to print in the email message to the printer. The user may specify print options in the email message body. The attached files typically need to be in a format (e.g., PDL) that is native to the printer. In a variation of this method disclosed in pending application U.S. Ser. No. 11/737,607, Thin client driverless printing using a direct rendering server, the printer forwards any document in a non-native format to a document conversion service, which converts the document to a native format and sends it back to the printer for printing.

In another variation of email print, the printer supports a plurality of email addresses, where each email address is associated with a different print option. For example, booklet@myprinter.com and duplex@myprinter.com may tell the printer to print in booklet or duplex mode, respectively. These methods do not disclose a means of where to route a document in an email message, or a means for importing a document into a scheduled or live meeting.

Another method related to document collaboration via email, is scanning a document into a workflow, where the scanned document image is sent to the workflow via email. In this case, an email address is associated with a document workflow. The user scans a document on a scanner which supports sending the scanned image data via email. The user specifies the email address of the workflow as the destination for the scanned document image.

This method is limited to routing to a predetermined fixed source (i.e., named workflow). It does not disclose a means to use information in the email to find a matching source that is temporary in nature (e.g., a scheduled or live meeting). Neither does it disclose a means for importing a document into a scheduled or live meeting.

Thus, the conventional online meeting services require Internet connectivity, regardless of solution, for sharing a document in an online meeting. That is, a participating device must have web access to the Internet. However, the Internet may not be available if the device is a mobile device lacking Internet capability, or the meeting is based on an Internet service not enabled on the mobile device. Further, there may be a lack of WiFi connectivity at the user's current location, or the network transfer may be limited to email/ftp (MFP Network Scan).

Thus, a solution is required for devices with some form of WAN/LAN connectivity, but lacking Internet connectivity and/or web browser access.

A closely related issue is the problem of obtaining content after a meeting has started (live) from a user/owner that is not actively participating in the meeting. For example, a company may be having an online meeting whose participation is restricted to senior management. During the meeting, there is a need to obtain hiring data from the HR department. The participants in the meeting would therefore desire a simple way to request the HR department directly import the content into the meeting, without being a participant in the meeting.

While of the conventional online meeting services provide methods for the host to import content into a live meeting, they all have limitations in importing from non-host attendees, and provide no means for importing content from non-participants.

The Cisco WebEx meeting service allows a host to import content into a live meeting thought a variety of means. Presentations can be directly uploaded. For a limited number of formats (e.g., PDF or PowerPoint), the host or attendee can upload a document to the service. The service converts the document to the WebEx presentation format, which may then be rendered for display by the service. A host or attendee may also import a document from their PC by printing it to a WebEx file uploading virtual printer. This virtual printer converts the document on the host's PC to a presentation format and uploads it to the meeting service. Alternately, a host can preload a document of a limited number of formats, which will be automatically launched and optionally time presented when the meeting starts. Finally, the host and attendees may make online notes during the meeting.

The Citrix GotoMeeting does not support importing content, or online notes.

The Microsoft Live Meeting service allows a host to import content into a live meeting thought a variety of means. Direct upload for presentationfor a limited number of formats (PDF or MS-Office formats), the host or attendee can upload a document to the service. The service converts the document to the Live Meeting presentation format, which may then be rendered for display by the service. Print to Sharea host or attendee may import a document from their PC by printing it to a Live Meeting file uploading virtual printer. This virtual printer converts the document on the host's PC to a presentation format and uploads it to the meeting service. The host may make online notes during the meeting. The Microsoft Live Meeting service does not support preloading content.

The DimDim meeting service allows a host to import content into a live meeting thought a variety of means. Direct upload for presentationfor a limited number of formats (PDF or PowerPoint), the host or attendee can upload a document to the service. The service converts the document to the WebEx presentation format, which may then be rendered for display by the service. The DimDim meeting service does not support preloading content or online notes.

The Adobe Connect meeting service allows a host to import content into a live meeting thought a variety of means. Direct upload for presentationfor a limited number of formats (e.g., PDF, PowerPoint, Flash), the host or attendee can upload a document to the service. The host may make online notes during the meeting.

None of the aforementioned solutions did provide a means to request and import content during (or before) a live meeting from a non-participant.

It would be advantageous if a predetermined or impromptu request can be made in a live meeting to a non-meeting participant for the importation of content, such as: documents, status/summaries and responses.

It would be advantageous to integrate the imported content with the meeting content, and categories the content based on the reason for the request (e.g., action items).

It would be further be advantageous if the request and importation occur asynchronous to the meeting, such that the content can be received and imported between periods of the live meeting, when the meeting is a continuous or otherwise recurring meeting.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Disclosed herein are a system and method that expands online meeting document sharing for non-Internet browsing capable devices, such as 1G mobile phones or multifunctional peripherals (MFPs), or where Internet access to the online meeting is blocked by a firewall, who otherwise have email connectivity. In a conventional operating environment, an online meeting is scheduled with a meeting service. The online meeting service may be enterprise hosted or hosted by a third party service. When the meeting is scheduled (or thereafter), one or more attendees are requested. Each attendee has an email address associated with them. A meeting request is then sent to the email address of each attendee. Each attendee receives the email message via an email client running on a computing device, such as a PC, laptop or mobile device. The computing device from which the user operates the email client can additionally store or access documents, and send documents as attachments via email.

When scheduling a meeting, the user performs typical tasks with scheduling an Outlook meeting, including: 1) setting time and location, 2) inviting attendees, 3) selecting a room resource, and 4) sending invites to the attendees. The user may also preload content for presentation in the meeting as part of the scheduling task.

The system disclosed herein additionally permits a user to email a document into a live, scheduled, or completed multi-user/multi-site online meeting for presentation and collaboration. The user does this by sending the document as an email attachment, to an email address associated with the live, scheduled, or completed online meeting. Upon receipt of the document, the online meeting service may: convert the document to a presentation format; store the document in a meeting repository; send the document to one or more meeting attendees; or, present the document for application sharing (either at the service or remote PC).

In one aspect, the user sends the document to a temporary email address associated with the online meeting. For example, when the meeting is scheduled, the service assigns the meeting a meeting PIN to uniquely identify the meeting. In another embodiment, the user sends the document to a predefined email address associated with the meeting service, and identifies the meeting within the email, such as in the subject or body. In another aspect, the user sends the email attachment by replying back to the email invite message sent by the meeting service. The original email message sent by the service has coded in it a meeting identifier which the meeting service can parse out when the message is sent back as a reply.

In one aspect, a meeting host, presenter or other meeting participant with the authority makes a request for content from a non-meeting participant. For example, the participant selects a menu button from the online meeting UI (e.g., desktop or browser application) to select or enter a non-meeting participant. In one case, the user can browse and select from a predetermined list of non-meeting participants. Alternately, the participant may enter the electronic contact address (e.g., email or IM) of the non-meeting participant. Once the non-meeting participants have been selected, the participant enters additional information on what content is being requested. The online meeting service then constructs an electronic message to each selected non-meeting participant for the requested content and sends the message to each non-meeting participant's electronic contact address. The request for content may occur: prior to a meeting (content is stored in a pre-meeting repository); during a meeting (content is stored in a launch area; or, after the meeting (content is added to available meeting documents). The content request may also be specific to a category or activity within the meeting, and the content requesting email would be further augmented to indicate the category.

Accordingly, a method is presented for providing electronic documents to online meeting participants. The method schedules a first online meeting between network-connected computer devices. A meeting server establishes a repository for the first online meeting. The meeting server receives an electronically formatted document sent to a first communication address assigned to the first online meeting repository, and stores the document in the first online meeting repository. A first computer device is able to log into the meeting server and access the document from the first online meeting repository at a time prior to, during, or after the first online meeting. Likewise, the meeting server is able to store a document received prior to, during, or after the meeting.

Additional details of the above-described method and an electronic document provision system for online meetings are provided below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic block diagram depicting a method for remote document collaboration (prior art).

FIG. 2 is a schematic block diagram depicting a printer method for sending documents (pending art).

FIG. 3 is a schematic block diagram depicting an electronic document provision system for online meetings.

FIG. 4 is a schematic block diagram depicting an exemplary document request.

FIG. 5 is a schematic block diagram depicting an exemplary process for storing requested content.

FIG. 6 is a flowchart depicting an exemplary document transmission process.

FIG. 7 is a flowchart illustrating an exemplary email reply process.

FIG. 8 is a flowchart illustrating a method of adding a meeting identifier to an email message.

FIG. 9 is a flowchart illustrating a method for verifying a valid email message.

FIG. 10 is a flowchart illustrating an exemplary process for requesting content for an online meeting.

FIG. 11 is a flowchart illustration an exemplary process for extracting content and a meeting ID from an email reply.

FIG. 12 is an exemplary rendering of an HTML form suitable for requesting meeting content.

FIG. 13 is an exemplary pull-down menu for requesting meeting content.

FIG. 14 is an overview depicting how received content is handled.

FIG. 15 is a diagram depicting an exemplary repository folder.

FIG. 16 depicts another example of a repository file folder.

FIG. 17 is a diagram depicting an online meeting service menu for adding action items.

FIG. 18 is an exemplary email message triggered as the result of an online meeting action item.

FIG. 19 is a diagram depicting a menu for reviewing the status of action items from previously held meetings.

FIG. 20 is a flowchart illustrating a method for providing electronic documents to online meeting participants in a system of connected communication devices.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

As used in this application, the terms component, module, system, and the like are intended to refer to an automated computing system entity, such as hardware, firmware, a combination of hardware and software, software, software stored on a computer-readable medium, or software in execution. For example, a component may be, but is not limited to being, a process running on a processor, a processor, an object, an executable, a thread of execution, a program, and/or a computer. By way of illustration, both an application running on a computing device and the computing device can be a component. One or more components can reside within a process and/or thread of execution and a component may be localized on one computer and/or distributed between two or more computers. In addition, these components can execute from various computer readable media having various data structures stored thereon. The components may communicate by way of local and/or remote processes such as in accordance with a signal having one or more data packets (e.g., data from one component interacting with another component in a local system, distributed system, and/or across a network such as the Internet with other systems by way of the signal).

FIG. 3 is a schematic block diagram depicting, an electronic document provision system for online meetings. The system 300 comprises a meeting server 302 having a web service interface on line 304 to accept a first online meeting schedule from a meeting organizer, and a repository 306 for the first online meeting. Typically, line 304 represents a wide area network (WAN) or local area network (LAN) connection. The meeting server 302 is able receive an electronically formatted document 308 sent to a first communication address assigned to the first online meeting repository, at a time prior to, during, or after the first online meeting. An electronically formatted document is a document capable of being stored and communicated in a digital format. MS-Word and Adobe PDF are just two examples of document formats. The system is not limited to any particular document format.

The meeting server 302 may be enabled with an application (e.g., a meeting service) including a sequence of software instructions stored in a computer-readable memory and executed by a processor. Since the manipulation of software instructions is well known in the art, these details are not shown in order to simply the figure. The meeting service is typically an online (Internet) or server-based (Intranet) meeting service hosted. Generally, under both scenarios, the meeting server has a web service interface and the meeting scheduler interacts with the meeting server via the web service interface. In other web-based programming models, the meeting server would implement a REST based API interface, and the meeting scheduler would interact using the REST based API interface.

The meeting server and computer devices discussed below may employ a computer system with a bus or other communication mechanism for communicating information, and a processor coupled to the bus for processing information. The computer system may also includes a main memory, such as a random access memory (RAM) or other dynamic storage device, coupled to the bus for storing information and instructions to be executed by processor. These memories may also be referred to as a computer-readable medium. The execution of the sequences of instructions contained in a computer-readable medium may cause a processor to perform some of the steps associated with position calculation. Alternately, these functions, or some of these functions may be performed in hardware. The practical implementation of such a computer system would be well known to one with skill in the art.

As used herein, the term computer-readable medium refers to any medium that participates in providing instructions to a processor for execution. Such a medium may take many forms, including but not limited to, non-volatile media, volatile media, and transmission media. Non-volatile media includes, for example, optical or magnetic disks. Volatile media includes dynamic memory. Common forms of computer-readable media include, for example, a floppy disk, a flexible disk, hard disk, magnetic tape, or any other magnetic medium, a CD-ROM, any other optical medium, punch cards, paper tape, any other physical medium with patterns of holes, a RAM, a PROM, and EPROM, a FLASH-EPROM, any other memory chip or cartridge, a carrier wave as described hereinafter, or any other medium from which a computer can read.

The meeting server 302 may temporarily assign the first communication address, exclusively associated with the first online meeting. For example, the meeting server may assign the address first_online_meeting@meeting_server.com for a two-week prior to the actual meeting, and let the address expire two weeks after the meeting. Alternately, the meeting server may establish a permanent first communication address associated with a plurality of online meetings (e.g., meetings@meeting_server.com), and assign an identifier to the first online meeting. The identifier can be a meeting PIN, the Internet. Protocol (IP) address of a computer device participating in the first online meeting, a meeting title, a name designated as the first online meeting host, or a URL associated with the first online meeting, to name a few examples.

The meeting server stores the document in the first online meeting repository 306. A network-connected first computer device 310 is able to log into the meeting server 302 and access the document 308 from the first online meeting repository 306 at a time prior to, during, or after the first online meeting. Although the first online meeting is depicted as an entity separate from the network 304, it should be understood that such a meeting would typically be enabled using WAN and/or LAN connections between participants. An online meeting is also enabled as a sequence of software instructions stored in a computer readable memory and executed by a processor in at least one of the meeting participant computer devices.

In one aspect, the first computer device 310 accesses the document 308 while participating in the first online meeting, and presents the document into the first online meeting. Alternately, any of the other meeting participants, such as the second computer device 312 or the third computer device 314, are able to access the document 308 and present it. The computer devices may be a device with Internet access capabilities, such as PCs, mobile phones, or personal digital assistants (PDAs), to name a few possible examples.

In another aspect, the second computer 312 receives an invitation to the first online meeting with the first communication address coded into the invitation, and sends the document 308 to the first communication address when accepting the invitation. By coded it is meant that the user of the second computer device 312 may not be able to see the address in the presentation of the request, but the second computer device is able to detect the embedded address, with instructions to send the document to the address.

In one aspect, a fourth computer device 316, not participating in the first online meeting receives a document request from the first computer device 310, and sends the document to the first communication address. Again, the document request can be received with the first communication address coded into the request. For example, the fourth computer device 316 may be a 1G mobile phone or printer (MFP), or a device whose Internet access to the meeting is blocked by a firewall.

In another aspect, the meeting server 302 establishes a plurality of categories associated with the first online meeting, and subsequent to receiving the document, associates the document with one of the first online meeting categories. Example categories and exemplary categorization methods are presented in detail below.

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