An update from the CEO about Toucan’s new patented feature

image of author Antonia Hellman

Antonia Hellman


5 min read


An update on Toucan's Conversation Dynamics: What we know, what we think, and what we’re still investigating

About a month ago, we announced that we 1. got a patent (!!) and 2. implemented that patent in our new feature, "Conversation Dynamics." The goal of the feature, as with everything else we do is to encourage everybody at an event to participate - not just the loudest voices in the room. The thing is, when we built Conversation Dynamics, we didn't know what the outcome would be because, well, no one had done anything like it before.

In my original post, I expressed how changing the sizes of people's videos based on talk time could have several potential effects (good ones and bad ones). With a bit of time, we have managed to learn a lot - some expected results and some unexpected:

1. We're very divided, even within our own team. In our team meetings, we found that the first iteration of Conversation Dynamics bothered the people who spoke a lot. Seeing themselves get really big made them self-conscious, and they tried to keep themselves from getting bigger by clamming up. Interestingly, the quieter folks weren't too bothered with their shrinking videos. As a result, there were many moments of silence on these calls, which never normally happens.

2. Some of our more corporate users LOVE Conversation Dynamics. When they use Toucan for team socials, they can call out the people who haven't spoken much and get them involved. Bear in mind, these are close colleagues who socialize with each other regularly. The degree of familiarity/closeness is an important detail.

3. Some introverts quite like Conversation Dynamics because they would prefer that their videos be smaller. They would rather interact with others in the group non-verbally, with the 👋 and 🧡 emoticons.

4. We have gotten feedback that the changing bubble sizes make a conversation feel more organic. Watching the talk time balance shift throughout the conversation makes the group look like it's a living, breathing organism. That's pretty cool. 🫀

We have made a few subtle changes to Conversation Dynamics since we released it, given our team's reaction to it and responses from our community. The most influential change has been adjusting the video size ratios. So now, a larger bubble isn't THAT much larger than a smaller one. We're trying to go for more of a subtle behavior-changing nudge, as opposed to a super in-your-face display of talk time disparity.

We have also adjusted the speed at which the bubbles change sizes, which places more emphasis on talk time differences in the present and recent past, as opposed to the entire conversation from the beginning.

Moving forward, we still have a lot more to learn, change, and build. Through it all, we'll be driven by our passion for facilitating the most engaging, productive, and inclusive conversations online.

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About author

image of author Antonia Hellman

Antonia Hellman

Antonia Hellman is co-founder and CEO of Toucan.

She is a recent graduate of Stanford University, having studied political science and economics.

She enjoys long walks to explore new cities, listening to audiobooks on 1.2x speed, a cup of hot water, and re-watching mediocre movies.

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