CSCCE Community Tools Trial Recap: A “Butter” way to Zoom?

CSCCE tools trials resumed for a short run of three sessions on Wednesday, 13 July 2022. A combination of CSCCE staff and community of practice members spent 60 minutes trying out the facilitation platform Butter, and in this blog post we share some of the features we tried and what we thought. 

What is Butter? 

Butter is primarily a video-conference tool with additional functionality, both built-in and through integration with commonly-used online tools like Mural and Google Docs. As a participant, you can interact with others in the room much as you would on Zoom (there is a group chat as well as direct messaging options), with a couple of additions: you can create a custom avatar for yourself, type private notes that you can then email to yourself after the meeting, and indicate to hosts if your request to speak aloud is a question, comment, or idea. 

The free version of Butter allows up to 100 participants to convene for 60 minutes, and access most of the features of the platform. Recording (and storage) is, however, restricted to the paid plan ($25/month). You can use Butter in a browser window, and without creating an account, however account holders can also download the Butter desktop app and interact through that instead. 

A Butter facilitation experience

The most exciting features of Butter are the ways in which it improves the facilitation experience. Some key features include: 

  • Modular agenda builder – Butter gives you the ability to create an agenda made up of reusable modules. These can be very detailed, and integrate with additional tools (that open within Butter) as well as notes that are only visible to facilitators. 
  • Breakout room moderation – When you’re setting up your breakout rooms, you can pre-populate them with tasks and activities (each room can be working on a different task). Facilitators can also observe conversations in the rooms and see the chat, offering similar capabilities to walking around in person and checking on groups. 
  • Multiple ways to stay connected behind the scenes – Facilitators can easily chat with each other in the facilitator-only chat box, and during breakout sessions they can convene in a room separate from the main room. 
  • Reduced need to switch between tabs/windows – You can link external tools into your toolbox, and view them in Butter, making it almost completely unnecessary to switch between tabs or windows. 
  • A truly helpful help desk and supportive community forum – When we were setting up the trial, a server outage meant that we contacted Butter support. They were very helpful and prompt, and the outage was quickly resolved. We also noticed that the Butter community forum seems like a welcoming place, full of useful tips and tricks for new users. 

Also, facilitators can choose from a menu of sound effects to liven up a meeting (think “crickets” for when no one is participating, or a “round of applause” after a presentation). 

Not always spreadable…

While there is a lot to enjoy with Butter, there are a few caveats. 

  1. Even with the paid plan, participation maxes out at 200. This means it’s not a solution for large meetings or events (maybe try Qiqochat instead). 
  2. Butter does not currently offer a built-in captioning/transcription service.
  3. There’s A LOT going on! As a participant, it takes a little getting used to where things are (e.g., the agenda is a little hidden). And as a facilitator, it would be a lot to handle solo. Having a clear plan for your facilitation team (of at least two people), and an orientation process for participants, might help mitigate the overwhelm. 
  4. It wasn’t super obvious when a facilitator began observing a breakout room. Once you knew where to look, there was a sign, but facilitators should make clear to participants ahead of time that observation is possible (and this extends to the chat box). 
  5. We also had some difficulty with screen sharing (which may have been browser-dependent), and the blue outline used to indicate that someone was talking did not stand out on Butter’s white background (compare with Zoom’s green outline on a black background). 

All in all, though, Butter is a fun, feature-rich platform that we will probably explore further as a team here at CSCCE. If you give it a try, let us know

Coming up…

Our next tools trial will be a chance to “Escape the Island” in Gather! This escape room challenge is a fun way for teams to connect while they solve puzzles, and with Gather becoming more commonly-used as a conference platform, it might be a familiar interface for many. 

Date: 27 July 2022

Time: 11am EDT / 3pm UTC

Calendar invite: Google | iCal

Zoom link to join

And then make sure you let us know what you’d be interested in trying out at our third trial (10 August 2022) by filling out this short form


Please note that neither CSCCE nor any of the participants (or their organizations) who attend these trials are endorsing the platforms. We will, where possible, ensure that participants have the option to enter the event as a guest and we will not provide any identifying information to the platform.