Letter from the CEO about Toucan’s new patented feature

image of author Antonia Hellman

Antonia Hellman


5 min read

letter from the CEO

Why is Conversation Dynamics a game-changer?

On traditional video conferencing platforms, the disparity in talk-time is stark. It's usually the case that one or two people talk, and everyone else listens.

We built Toucan specifically to avoid this. Toucan has always been a platform for networking and socializing, where everyone is encouraged to speak up, participate, and get to know other people authentically.

The key to any well-rounded conversation is having multiple voices. But sometimes, certain people can emerge as being more dominant, and others can't get a word in. When there is a visual representation of the time you've spent speaking relative to everyone else, it will prompt people to reflect and invite others to chime in.

A unique feature in the world of social video...and we patented it.

In a Toucan event, your group will ebb and flow along with your conversation, gradually resizing people's videos and icons based on the relative amount of time that they have spent speaking. This gives everybody a real-time visual representation of how much everyone has participated. Our intention by adding this unique feature is to encourage everyone to participate equally, thus resulting in circles that are roughly the same size.

This is our first attempt.

As you may know, Toucan puts social psychology at the heart of what we do. Our primary objective is to create a social environment that makes people feel included.

However, Conversation Dynamics is uncharted territory - in the best possible way. We are trying something new and are interested to see what you all think about it. Even within our team, we have had deep conversations as we designed and built the feature. The big question is: "Who will Conversation Dynamics benefit the most?"

The greater purpose of implementing Conversation Dynamics is to create visual cues that encourage talkative people to give others more chances to speak and less talkative people to offer their thoughts a bit more. By adjusting the sizes of people's bubbles, it's obvious what steps need to be taken in order to achieve talk-time parity.

A concern that we have, however, is that Conversation Dynamics will inadvertently reinforce unequal behavior - sending louder people on a power trip and causing quieter people to fade into the shadows. In particular, we're extremely conscious of how gender, race, sexuality, and other differences play into people's comfort with speaking up. We never want to make anyone feel like they are lesser-than, and we sincerely hope that Conversation Dynamics doesn't do that. In fact, it's meant to do the opposite.

We want to know what you think.

As with every new technology, we cannot be certain about how Conversation Dynamics will affect conversations or in-event movement. One thing we can say for certain, though, is that we're incredibly excited to find out! Please let us know what you think about it, we're very curious to hear what Conversation Dynamics does for you.

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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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