Time For A Technology Step-Change

OK! I know you’re bored of talking about this, but
I bet you’re thinking about video conferencing more than you were.

Tired of it? Me too. Jeepers.

Here’s a question


If you didn’t use video conferencing day-to-day before this, or you spoke to your in-laws about it years ago, I bet they used another word. A bit like people say ‘Hoover’ when they mean ‘vacuum cleaner’, I bet you talked about Skype. I’ll Skype you. So, why weren’t you using Skype as much as Zoom?

Microsoft bought Skype, but SMC, in fact, used Teams – a different Microsoft product. And I’ve used Meets (Google), Chime (Amazon), FaceTime (Apple), Pexip..etc. In fact Skype-for-Business was one of the worst products I’ve used for this sort of thing.

Zoom, Skype

You know why Zoom won?


Because it was/is easiest. Not the best, by any means. Certainly not the most secure! But you don’t need an account to join a call and it works on just about anything – any device – straightaway.

video conferencing
video conferencing

‘Easy’ beats ‘Better’


If you are technology-focussed you might think a little about what would be a better solution long-term (SMC can help!) : better lighting? network bandwidth? decent microphones? larger displays so you can see more people at once? something better for document sharing?

If you are thinking more philosophically, you may wish to consider the difference between those services that require you to (digitally) go ‘somewhere’ – a URL or a meeting address (like Teams or Zoom) and those where you just ‘call people’ and add them in (like FaceTime or Skype). This makes you think about why you’re using a videoconferencing service – to speak to someone, or do/attend something.

Whatever the reason, we’re all ‘doing it now’. It isn’t onerous, and can be a lot of fun. I think we’ve learned that ‘easy’ beats ‘better’ hands-down. So what is next? What will make you do this more than before lockdown? The lack of travel? The lack of health-risk? For me it is about what is better. I know that lots of things are worse – collaborating when discussing physical samples, exploring spaces themselves, forming friendships and building relationships. What’s better is that the less-confident amongst us can share their work – their drawings and documents – more easily, and are interrupted less frequently when doing so. It doesn’t disenfranchise those who are less fashionable or politically-savvy and meetings can end quicker if everyone is respectful of everyone else. I’ve spent less time on trains and in airports and that is (mostly) a good thing.

All this means, I believe, that we can now see online meetings as the ‘right answer’ more often, which is good for us, our families, and the environment. And we’ll probably get more done, and have more fun, at face-to-face meetings as a result.