Guide to Technology

Technology concerns, in brief.

  1. You must use a Windows, Mac or Chromebook computer. Smart phones/tablets do not work.

  2. You should use Chrome as your browser; Yaatly was built on a platform that works best with Chrome. Other browsers may not function well or at all.

  3. If you're connecting from a school's internet service, we strongly recommend that you investigate whether your school's internet controls permit you to connect to Yaatly. Schools often run filtering software on their networks to prohibit access to undesirable sites. This software sometimes prohibits connection to Yaatly by default. Asking your IT department to add Yaatly to the blocking software's list of permitted sites usually solves the problem.

  4. If your personal device is using internet filtering software (a.k.a. parental control software) you may need to set your permissions to allow a connection to Yaatly.

  5. If you're connecting to Yaatly via an VPN (virtual private network), we strongly recommend that you test your connection before attempting to compete. We've found that higher-end VPNs are robust enough to provide stable connections, but low-cost or free VPNs typically are not. Also note that VPNs can cause Yaatly to display in a different language due to the location of the VPN. You should be able to configure your VPN to use a server in a country that speaks your preferred language. If not, you can translate the language via your browser as a last resort.

  6. You must use a strong wifi connection or (preferably) be plugged into your router with an ethernet cable. A cell phone hotspot is not likely to have a fast enough connection to provide stable videoconferencing.

  7. Your computer should be fully charged or, preferably, plugged in. The event may be hours long; your battery may not last as long as the event.

  8. You may use the microphone & speaker built into your computer, but headphones and a dedicated (external, USB) microphone will improve your sound quality dramatically.

  9. You may use the camera built into your computer, but a dedicated (external, USB) webcam--particularly if it may be positioned to capture a more complete image--will produce better video.

  10. You should have only one computer connected to Yaatly per room. Additional computers in the same room running Yaatly create nasty feedback loops.

Technology, the extended discussion.

Improving Home Internet Performance

It's no secret that the quality of the video connection you'll have depends in large part on the quality of your internet connection, both in the service you're using and the way in which you connect to that service. Broadband, unlimited data internet connections are the gold standard for video conferencing. The more limited your internet connection, the more problems you're likely to have with your connection.

The best way to improve your home internet is to use an ethernet and plug it into your router. This approach is far more stable than Wi-Fi.

Restart your Router

If you’ve experienced connectivity issues, you may want to restart your router to end stale, unusued connections. Let your router sit unplugged for 10 minutes for a complete reboot.

Get closer to your router

To maximize signal quality, you must do one of two things: move the router or move yourself. The closer you are to your router, the better your signal quality.

Fewer devices = greater speed

Each additional device connected to your router will slow all other devices' connection speed. Routers handle additional devices with a first-come, first-served approach, which means that the integrity of your video stream will depend on how many other devices are connected. Optimal video performance depends on an exclusive, immediate connection to a router.

Update Your Router

There's the chance that your router's performance will be improved by updating its firmware. Check your manufacturer's website for the most recent version of their firmware and instructions on updating your router.

Check your router's user manual for tips

It's impossible to list all the ways in which you might improve your router's ability to handle video in this document, but you may find very useful tips by checking your user manual. Most manufacturers have these user guides available on their websites. Check for things like prioritizing your device on the router (if you must share it with others), selecting a dedicated radio channel for your device or using a dual-band configuration for your router.

Recommended Technology

Important Note: Understand that your hardware (laptop, microphone and camera) will affect your online debating experience MUCH LESS than your internet connection and router. If you're going to invest anywhere, invest in a better internet connection.

Second Important Note: You absolutely must practice with your technology before you enter a competitive tournament. Doing so will allow you to establish a "baseline" of expectations to better understand when you're having problems (and to diagnose those problems before they interfere with your competition).

Ethernet cables and adapters: You should consider buying an ethernet adapter (if your computer lacks an ethernet port) and cable to plug directly into your router. You may also purchase an ethernet dongle that will allow you to connect via a wired connection to your computers USB port.

Headphones and Microphone vs Headset: Generally, the preferability of audio/video hardware goes like this, with 1st being most preferred:

  1. Headphones and a dedicated, external (USB) camera and high-quality microphone

  2. A headphone/microphone combo (like a gaming headset

  3. The internal camera and microphone on your computer

Again, testing your equipment before you compete is absolutely necessary. Try to connect with several programs and several people in several locations to get a sense of how your equipment performs.

Connectivity issues

Given the wide range of internet connections, devices and geographic locations from which people connect to Yaatly, we can't always control for the stability of their connectivity. At times, users' connectivity may affect the quality of other users' experience because of the demands it puts on your internet connection or your device's CPU. We've built in tools to help you manage connectivity issues.

Pause video

You can control whether your screen displays the other participants' videos to lower the demand on your internet connection or CPU. In the lower right-hand corner of competition rooms, you'll find an option to pause video tiles. When you select this option, your screen will no longer display other participants' videos. You'll still be able to hear their audio and other users on other devices will not be affected. You can also pause a single participant's video tile on your screen by clicking the pause icon on that user's video tile. Other users will still see that participant's video and hear their audio.

Backup Rooms

If you room becomes unstable, you can elect to join a backup room from within your competition room. In the lower right-hand corner, you can select "join backup room" to be taken directly into a standard videoconferencing room. Note that all members of the room must choose this option; typically a judge will ask competitors to move to the backup room.