back to article Not on your Zoom, not on Teams, not Google Meet, not BlueJeans. WebEx, Skype and Houseparty make us itch. No, not FaceTime, not even Twitch

As we struggle wearily towards the beginning of the end of the pandemic, we can take stock of what we as a species and as a society have learned. We all have our own revelations. Mine have been that as a freelance tech writer, lockdown and total freedom are indistinguishable; that it's a mug's game struggling home with bottles …

  1. GreenJimll

    I agree about the lack of interoperability - the many years of standards development seem to have been swept away for walled gardens. Hopefully consumer pressure might help tackle that once the major players are pretty much on a level playing field of features.

    However I do disagree about the need for video conferencing in general. It means I can attend meetings, chat with my colleagues and sit in on workshops in the USA without moving from my lounge. That's a win as far as I'm concerned. I've been trying to do, and get others to do, video conferencing instead of having to spent hours travelling about for decades. The first time we used it in anger was with the MBONE (remember that?) back in the mid/late-1990s to virtually attend an EU funded meeting for a couple of hours without having to spend two days either side travelling. I'm amazed in a way its taken two decades and a global pandemic to get more people to catch up with that and realise its value.

    1. oiseau

      I think you may have missed the point(s).

      In my view, the most important one(s).

      "It's dehumanising. You can't maintain eye contact like humans do ..."

      "Voice only leaves your brain free to think instead of processing broken visual social cues."

      It is not just about interoperability.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > It is not just about interoperability.

        Granted, there is a significant amount of loss of information, perhaps more than people used to watching actors on television / film might expect. But that we can live with. We're doing that right now by typing at a keyboard instead of sitting across a table at the pub.

        And that can be improved if necessary. But only if the fragmentation and division of effort by badly mistaken capitalists is tackled first.

        Imagine that you could only speak on the phone to other subscribers of your own phone company or users of the same phone model as yours. Or that you could only email other GMail / Hotmail / whatever users.

        Videoconferencing and instant messaging need to be set to a common standard and silos need to be legislated away (I believe there is some timid work in the direction at the EU level).

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      I don't miss it

      We used to use video heavily in the early 90s, when we had a local team working with a remote team on the US west coast. In those days the videoconferencing suite was booked up weeks head for the couple of hours overlap between the time zones.

      Then it just fizzled. As it became possible to do it on a laptop, with team members staying in their offices, people just stopped. Meetings went back to phone-only, and were far more productive for it. Now I'm in multiple Zoom meetings every week, with anything from 2 to 150+ people, and almost nobody activates their camera, most don't even bother to upload a static photo.

      Shared screens, now that is useful. Being able to see a document/wiki/spreadsheet/slide while it's being discussed is very useful, and avoids the "hang on, what page are we on again" comments when everyone is working from a local copy (and invariably someone still has an old version), but video? Meh. And it's not that I'm worried about what they see, I have a proper home office & I am always fully dressed ;)

      do what my pals do – say there's not enough bandwidth and you need the camera off for good audio quality.

      Yep, works for me when anyone does ask for video, and has the advantage of being reasonably true.

      1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

        Agreed: Shared screens ARE useful

        Been doing that between companies for years -- well over a decade, even.

        [Deleted callouts of every service used since 2005.]

        Two observations aside from lack of general interoperability:

        1. Customer (USgov) can't use our current choice [redacted] but does use Teams. We can use Teams but can only share screens if we use the desktop version (not via browser) AND have to register with a private Microsoft account -- work logins are fine for Windows and Office but no Teams support.

        2. Some in our company can do video; I have the hardware (hello, non-functional lens) but Windows says that camera does not exist. As I've said before, FINE with me! I'd rather you look at my data/analysis/designs/reports than my face.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Agreed: Shared screens ARE useful

          What you describe is exactly¹ why at my company we don't do video calling: it's either face to face, phone or email.

          ¹ Lack of interoperability also impacts your security policy. In a nutshell, the more applications, services and accounts that you have, the bigger your attack surface and the more complex and costly it is to maintain and manage an adequate level of security. We cut the Gordian knot on that one.

        2. NATTtrash

          Re: Agreed: Shared screens ARE useful

          We can use Teams but can only share screens if we use the desktop version (not via browser) AND have to register with a private Microsoft account -- work logins are fine for Windows and Office but no Teams support.

          You're so right here. Nowadays with all the different options were right back where we were: "This page is best viewed in Internet Explorer at 800x600 resolution". Yay, progress! It already started with the SfB thing where SfB uses were not allowed to chat with "consumer" Skype users. Now with Teams it's even more fab... if you have all the MS certs/ registrations/ paid packages/ approval (Your organisation does not have a registration. Please refer to MSurl to purchase...). And since some think no further than "What's the issue because I can do it?" I have to suppress the feeling to ask for a conference phone number continuously. And then I'm not even talking about those w****kers who insist on a vid call... and then don't turn their cam on, so you end up talking into a black hole.</rant>

    3. Dinanziame Silver badge

      Strongly disagree as well. For all its brokenness, the visual aspect makes it far more palatable for me to have meetings. This will affect different people differently, but it's far easier for me to follow what people are saying if I see them speaking. And though it cannot compare to a physical meeting, you still can transfer a lot of visual social cues.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        And for those of us who lip read - it's really rather useful

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          >And for those of us who lip read - it's really rather useful

          Also rather useful to those who use sign language...

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          I've been working remotely since the late 1990s, and videoconferencing more or less daily since late 2008, according to my records. (I've used Polycom PVX, Bridgit, Skype, Lync, Teams, GoToMeeting / GoToWebinar, WebEx, and no doubt others I'm forgetting. Thus far I've avoided Zoom and Google Whatever, and I won't be using Facetime since I avoid Apple devices.)

          Personally, I've never found the video aspect very useful. But that's me; I'm not particularly good at reading facial expressions, and I'm not very fond of synchronous media anyway. I'm very much verbally-oriented.

          But I have colleagues who find the video aspect quite helpful. And even though I'm quite introverted by nature, I find that I do appreciate seeing my colleagues' faces once in a while. My last face-to-face meeting with them was over four years ago, and the occasional visual reminder helps me maintain the sense of social connection.

          That's not as compelling as lip-reading or sign language, which are certainly strong arguments for video. But I would regret going back to the days of exclusively audio-only meetings.

      2. Martin M

        As someone who changed jobs at the beginning of April, I've found it really valuable for all of its flaws. Broken eye contact is unnatural, but working closely with people for months without any idea of what they look like and their facial expressions etc. would be much more so. Lack of video chat would have left me feeling very disconnected.

        That said, I often turn off video a few minutes into a meeting, especially where there are more than a couple of other people - the 'wall of faces' is not very useful for me. Although in most cases you're looking at a screen share by that point anyway.

        And the lipreading/signing points are very good ones.

        1. Martin M

          Also, the idea that there is no value is rather given the lie by the large numbers of people who choose to use some form of videoconferencing when speaking to their friends and family. A lot of this is about context, poor equipment/setup and overuse in inappropriate situations, rather than a fundamental flaw in the technology.

          The poor equipment point is particularly evident for me because at the beginning of lockdown I held my nose and bought a Facebook TV for me and a Facebook Portal+ for my 70+ yo parents, so we could keep in touch and they could watch my kids grow up. They're clinically extremely vulnerable and finding the lack of face-to-face very difficult, particularly as the kids change so fast.

          Yes, Facebook. I know. But there still aren't any other proper dedicated consumer videoconferencing devices available as far as I can see, at least with/supporting decent size screens - which is just plain odd. They are fantastic.

          Video and sound quality are awesome, and the kids interact very naturally as it works from the other side of the room and will zoom and pan as they run around. We can relax on the sofa later when they're in bed and have an hour's discussion without it being tiring. Eye contact seems pretty good so long as it's mounted on top of the TV. It's not the same as having them here but it's definitely worth having.

          It's just a shame VC is so much worse on my work laptop. Completely different experience.

    4. fidodogbreath

      Forget the inter-, how about justy operability

      When our company remodeled the conference rooms a few years ago, they spent who knows how much money mounting new ginormous TVs with cameras on top and NUCs on the back so we could video conference with...someone? On the rare occasions that someone has tried to actually *do* a VC with these, the long-ignored NUC doesn't work because the login expired, 200 Windows updates are pending, it's overdue for a full virus scan, the VC software needs to be updated (and/or a different one installed), and the wireless keyboard batteries are dead.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Forget the inter-, how about justy operability

        Our company has offices in US, London and China. Each location has 10-20 meeting rooms, each with 2 42" TVs and a Polycom camera/phone setup. The Polycom kit can do google hangouts and zoom, and probably others too. We can call other rooms or people, and it just works. Two screens works great, you can have one screen with shared content (someone's laptop screen) and another screen with the remote attendees.

        Everything is controlled by Google calendar. When you book a meeting room, you can add Zoom or Hangouts; the "room" gets added as an invitee to the meeting, so you just press a button when you get in the room and it connects to the VC meeting. This Polycom kit isn't cheap, but it certainly works.

        Even before lockdown, it was rare for a meeting to not use any sort of VC, and now its ubiquitous and easy. If we didn't have the VC options that we do now, I think our company would have been pushing for us to be back in the office, instead of planning on giving up most of the office space and only keeping desks for sales and accounts.

        1. fidodogbreath

          Re: Forget the inter-, how about justy operability

          Sounds like AC's company actually put thought into making a functional system that integrates into existing workflows. Pretty sure our execs just told IT "we need video conference systems in the meeting rooms," and IT found the cheapest possible way to mark it off the punch list.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Forget the inter-, how about justy operability

            "and IT found the cheapest possible way to mark it off the punch list."

            More probably, IT found the cheapest possible way to do it as no-one would actually give them a budget for it.

            1. Ochib

              Re: Forget the inter-, how about justy operability

              Or IT was bypassed and the equipment turned up and the IT dept were told to "Just Make it work"

    5. DS999 Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      What does videoconferencing provide

      That audio conferencing does not? Where's the need to see the faces of those you are talking to? I've worked remotely for most of the past 15 years (other than the last two, where I've been engaged in other business rather than my IT consulting) and never once thought "boy this meeting would be improved if we could see each other".

      I'm glad I've missed it so far, but if/when I return to my consulting business I will really be annoyed if the "new normal" is that everyone video conferences. I'll have to clean up my office so it doesn't look like such a mess behind me, worry about what I'm wearing, whether I've shaved, make sure I'm not messing with my phone when someone is droning on about something irrelevant, etc. What a giant waste of effort videoconferencing is. 99% of the time it is used it will add no value!

      1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: What does videoconferencing provide

        That audio conferencing does not? Where's the need to see the faces of those you are talking to?

        Away from the superimposed circles of "Works in IT or STEM" and "Has ASD" in the Great Venn Diagram of Humanity, many people do actually prefer to see the person or people they are talking to. For the Aspies and the pyjama'ed, there's always "Turn off video"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What does videoconferencing provide

          > That audio conferencing does not?

          When I were a lad…

          (pausing to give the audience time to leave)

          (you still here?)

          (anyway, what was I saying?)

          (ah, yes)

          When I were a lad, our conferencing was done via email. On dial-up Immarsat, at $10 per minute.

          Anyway, what does audio provide that telex does not?

          (told you you should have left)

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: What does videoconferencing provide

            Email? Luxury!

            Our conferences were conducted by carving pictographs into rock formations that each participant would eventually wander by in the course of our seasonal migrations.

            Latency was high but the archiving feature worked well.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: What does videoconferencing provide

        >I'm glad I've missed it so far, but if/when I return to my consulting business I will really be annoyed if the "new normal" is that everyone video conferences. I'll have to clean up my office so it doesn't look like such a mess behind me, worry about what I'm wearing..

        Yes, ElReg has missed a sales opportunity.

        Where can people buy the t-shirts and mugs which regularly appear in ElReg pictures?

      3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: What does videoconferencing provide

        Apparently this will come as a surprise, but not everyone is you.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: What does videoconferencing provide

          Yes but if it becomes an EXPECTATION that people use video rather than audio conferencing, then it becomes my problem that some people are unable to pay attention in a meeting without seeing those they are talking to.

          If it is optional I don't have an objection, I can continue to go audio only and sit around unshaven and wearing a sleeveless shirt in the summer or a possibly stained sweatshirt in the winter, and not clean up the junk and dust bunnies infesting some of the bookshelves behind me due to not owning enough books to fill the whole thing.

  2. Potemkine! Silver badge

    I would tend to agree to the point of the article: conferencing is very useful, video-conferencing is not. I guess most of people I communicate with each day through numerous VC systems agree, because most of them do not share their video. Sharing desktops, apps and docs is useful, but what the point of looking at somebody wearing the same mask as I do anyway?

    Witnessing about different systems quality, I favor Webex over Teams and Skype for now.

  3. Tim Russell

    Yes, but no, but ....

    Start with my gut feeling and you can decide to read further, or not. The article feels technofobia-esq..... Video is part of the interaction, we don't talk to each other f2f with our eyes closed why when we are virtual would we do the same?

    First the Yes: I agree, interoperability should be there and the likes of Synergy Sky are addressing this, at least on an enterprise scale.

    But: for telephone numbers we have the e164 plan, and internationally agreed scheme, and governed by various organisations globally to keep telcos in check. Video is usually your email address and although these are governed at a domain level to an extent, they are in no way comparable to e164 numbering.

    No: Video has a place, interoperability aside. It can not replace F2F or physical social interactions but it can and does augment conversations. This I believe is split into two camps, work and play.

    Work: When you are on an audio only call, you go on mute, cut the grass, go shopping etc; you are not paying attention to the call, especially if like me you can only really do one thing at a time. Video helps the end user to concentrate on the task at hand. Video also provides an insight into body language that you can only hear from audible sighs in an audio conference, where as eye rolls, frowns, shrugs are all automatic reactions that video allows us to see and react to. If I am presenting to a large audience, I can change the talk track form this body language, I cna also gain interest from where my audience is looking.

    Play: If I judge this by the number of idiots I see walking around supermarkets on facetime with the speaker on (No ear phones) I think you are in the minority; people want the video. Conversations with the new work force, gen Z is generally limited to 30-60 seconds; they don't have the staying power for a long conversation, so you receive blitzed short full immersion conversations. Video is required for this, look at their utilisation of snap, they send audio clips to each other instead of typing a response... Video is here to stay.

    Finally, there is a market for video, it is in the meetings and conferencing space, just like YouTube, video adds more than just a flat written document, or recorded narration. Lighting and appearance is being understood and VC is evolving; look at Amazon and the face lights, ring lights, back drops etc, the market is supporting and growing to increase not reduce VC usage.

    "Dr. Emmett Brown : [holding Marty's video camera] No wonder your president has to be an actor. He's gotta look good on television." - We are all in this position now, our presence helps support and promote attention and whatever it is we are trying to communicate.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Yes, but no, but ....

      > Video is part of the interaction, we don't talk to each other with our eyes closed why when we are virtual would we do the same

      The article author mentions 'broken social cues' in videoconferencing. He feels that no Visual cues ate better than false visual cues. Visual cues are important in face to face meeting (as indeed, is touch in many cultures) but video conferencing breaks these cues in at least two ways:

      -eye contact doesn't work, because the camera and the screen are not in the same place.* Even if they were, your pupils would appear to the other person to be looking at a point in space roughly halfway between them and you.

      -delays and lag can cause a distracting disconnect between people.

      * The documentary film maker Errol Morris uses a half mirrored system, so that the person being interviewed appears to the viewer to be looking directly into the camera, but allowing the interviewee and interviewer to maintain eye contact during their conversation. He calls it the Interrotron.

      1. Tim Russell

        Re: Yes, but no, but ....

        Eye contact (An unfair point to focus on .. forgive the pun) is just one... the broken social ques aligns to an assumption that we can not learn to work with the remaining 'language' we receive from the speaker.

        1. WanderingHaggis

          Re: Yes, but no, but ....eye contact

          Eye contact can be a cultural think. Myself and a colleague use to avoid eye contact (I find it very aggressive-- I'm Glaswegians and friend Londoner) -- our US coworker didn't understand why we wouldn't look him in the eye and was wondering what we were up to. So to avoid cultural faux pas especially if you are dealing with say Asian cultures that you don't understand as well as you think you do -- turn the video off.

          Hay you looking at me, Jimmy

          1. NATTtrash

            Re: Yes, but no, but ....eye contact

            Assuming you have the right hardware that is. And the cam is positioned correctly. With many you can't even see their eyes, since it hides behind their nose hair. And with others the cam is not in the line of view of your conversation partner, who looks at you on an other screen. And thus is talking "past" you by default...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yes, but no, but ....

        Didn't apple at least in a beta test out "correcting" eye position so it didn't appear that people were looking into the camera? Not sure if it made it into a release FaceTime or not.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yes, but no, but ....

          Settings > FaceTime > Eye Contact "Establish natural eye contact while on FaceTime."

      3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Yes, but no, but ....

        The documentary film maker Errol Morris uses a half mirrored system,

        You can make one:

      4. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Yes, but no, but ....

        >-eye contact doesn't work, because the camera and the screen are not in the same place.* Even if they were, your pupils would appear to the other person to be looking at a point in space roughly halfway between them and you.

        That's just a function of the current state-of-the-art, the level of tech that can be mass produced and the price people are willing to pay. We already have the technology to resolve this problem, just that currently it doesn't fit within the constraints of desktop/portable devices.

        The fact of the matter is that times-are-a-changing, just as they changed from letter writing to telephone and radio to TV.

        One of the good things to come out of lockdown is the widespread use of Zoom et al has exposed the limitations of the current Internet. Interestingly, if you believe all the hype about 5G, it will also suffer because it too is crippled by the constraints of the IPv4/IPv6 Internet. The time really is coming for Inter net v3 [Aside: V3 to distinguish it from the talk back in the late 90's of Internet V2.]

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Yes, but no, but ....

          Another good thing to come out of VC, is the realisation of just how rubbish the majority of PC/laptop/Android phones webcams are, along with their audio capabilities - this is one of the areas that Apple does seem to be doing better....

          Perhaps in 2021 laptop vendors will be fitting 1080p 3D webcams as standard, rather than claiming HD but only delivering 720p (even on their top-end machines), along with decent audio circuitry.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Yes, but no, but ....

      I think the rant is more about its overuse (as well as everybody using a different system).

      I don't like videoconferencing, but, luckily, my company uses it sparingly (I probably do less than an hour a month of video calls - outside of actual Teams training, which I do in Teams).

      When done properly, it can be a boon. But most places do it badly - constant meetings, always on conferences etc. Hours on end, every day. When you do an hour or two a week, VC is fine. If you are subjected to 8 hours plus a day, it is a form of purgatory.

      Most of our users don't have cameras on their PCs and don't want them.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yes, but no, but ....

      "Video is part of the interaction, we don't talk to each other f2f with our eyes closed"

      You don't talk to many programmers or engineers, do yo?

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Yes, but no, but ....

        >You don't talk to many programmers or engineers, do yo?

        And even f2f not many of them actually looked at you for more than a split second...

    4. stiine Silver badge

      Re: Yes, but no, but ....

      Yes I do. If I'm trying to remember something important from 10 years ago, I'm closing my eyes. If I happen to be talking to you face to face, I'm still closing my eyes. I DON'T do this when I'm driving any more...

  4. Howard Sway Silver badge

    Yeecall, Big Blue Button, Face Flow, Talky, Nexmo, imo, Whereby, Tox, Linkello

    Why do most tech startups have names nowadays that sound like characters from tv shows for kids under the age of five?

    OK, maybe not Face Flow, that's just....... wrong.

    I was first subjected to video conferencing 20 years ago, in a super expensive corporate "video conferencing suite", and it was precisely the same shit experience then as it is now, just needing an extra person to crawl around on the floor for ages trying to connect the correct cables into the correct boxes before it would work.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Yeecall, Big Blue Button, Face Flow, Talky, Nexmo, imo, Whereby, Tox, Linkello

      Big Blue Button is a German system that was aimed at education, so a big blue button makes it easy.

      And judging by the PHBs I know, even that is too much for most of them to grasp.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Yeecall, Big Blue Button, Face Flow, Talky, Nexmo, imo, Whereby, Tox, Linkello

        >Big Blue Button is a German system that was aimed at education,

        While Big Red Button is an American system that was aimed at Germany

    2. Franco

      Re: Yeecall, Big Blue Button, Face Flow, Talky, Nexmo, imo, Whereby, Tox, Linkello

      The stupid names thing is very common at the moment. Choclatey for example, or my absolutely most hated company name of all time,

      As stated in other threads the lid of my laptop is usually closed due to weird resolution issues that I seem to get with dual monitors if it's open, so that's a good excuse for the camera to stay off. Do still get people saying "I can't see you" on calls occasionally though.

    3. Erik4872

      Re: Yeecall, Big Blue Button, Face Flow, Talky, Nexmo, imo, Whereby, Tox, Linkello

      I think it's to force people to remember them by having the silliest name possible. That, or they just use a business name generator. Or, they just cargo-cult the other startups and put an "ly" on the end of a common name, or use a ".io" or ".ai" domain name.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Yeecall, Big Blue Button, Face Flow, Talky, Nexmo, imo, Whereby, Tox, Linkello

        I'm waiting for the hipster's to go to ultra-retro.

        Richard Arkwright and Sons, bespoke software crafters to the

  5. DJV Silver badge

    Of course, what we really need... a common standard that all VC systems use. What could possibly go wrong?!

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Of course, what we really need...

      That's the first XKCD reference I've seen where I don't need to click on the link. I know exactly which one it is...

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Of course, what we really need...

        The standard one of course.

  6. chivo243 Silver badge

    We tried for the longest time to only support one platform, and had lots of push back, please install this one for a meeting with this company, they don't use our platform... We capitulated, started installing the other platform, and now we are stilling config issues with the sound on both platforms.

    Can someone build something for video meets like Adium for chat?

    There's your better mouse trap!

    1. big_D Silver badge

      That is what I like about Teams, it is zero footprint for guests, they just need to open Chrome or Edge and ensure they have a headset or speaker and microphone.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Is it also that simple on Linux?

        1. Andrew Yeomans


          Teams generally works as well on Linux as on other platforms.

          Which means that it's often pretty good - providing you don't have to use more than one Teams account. And know when to ignore the nags to download a client. And reboot when it loses your camera or microphone. Whether on Linux, MacOS or Windows.

          As soon as you need to use two accounts (two companies, home and work, etc) you may enter the hell of being partly logged into both. Sometimes using the native application for one account and the browser for another might work. But sometimes the only fix is to delete all the 250 MB (!) of local Teams data and start again. At least that deletion is easy on Linux, no registry stuff to mess with.

          Personally I prefer Jitsi, just click on the link of your choice and go. No need for an account or anything. If keen, you can run your own private server. WebRTC is close to a standard and hopefully will kill off the multitude of clients.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: Maybe

            I've not had any problems with Teams losing the camera or microphone.

            But its multi-account use is abysmal.

            1. NATTtrash

              Re: Maybe

              Enter email...

              "Somebody else in your organisation already has an account. Please provide another email address."

      2. Alumoi Silver badge

        How about Firefox? Or Safari?

        Why force me to use a Chromium based browser?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Except that Teams is the most irritating pile of complete and utter s**t I've had the misfortune to have to use. Clearly designed by clueless f**kwits with no idea whatsoever people want from a tool like that.

        Like :

        What complete and utter f**kwit thinks that having a toolbar obscure a chunk of the screen all the time you don't want it to is a good idea. How about being able to shift it somewhere else where it's not almost permanently in the way. As it is, it mostly refuses to go away when you don't want it, and then refuses to re-appear in a timely manner when you do want it. I know I'm not alone, there's loads of complaints about it all over the internet, and MS responses along the lines of "report it here, and if enough do then we might think about considering whether it's worth us thinking about changing it".

        And why have all that s**t around the window - icons down the left side, useless circles of some of the participants initials along the bottom (SfB allows you to undock that to a separate window). Just like the rest of their visually obnoxious cr*p, they seem intent on managing to provide the smallest possible active area on the biggest of screens.

        And the text chat. WTF is going on there. I don't f'in care about people coming and going, but I do care about being able to see (even find !) the messages that are hidden in the forest of useless messages.

        And while it's been better recently (the network people have apparently had to prioritise Teams traffic at the expense of everything else), the audio quality on Teams has been consistently poor. So bad that several meetings have had to be abandoned and we've all popped over to SfB to carry on.

        No, my mood goes downhill every time I find out that a meeting is to be with Teams.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remember to stay scared inside your homes. This pandemic is no joke, it is super deadly. I mean they fact checked the death rate in the UK and it's at 0.26%, most of those over 70 years old - That's really deadly! Remember, wash your hands, close your doors, don't go outside, don't even breathe. Don't visit people, any people, ignore your family, shut your business. What do you mean you need money? This is all to buy time for track and trace - yeah I know those things don't work when a disease is endemic and already embedded in a population but hey, Hands, face , space! Hey are you still reading this?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      > This pandemic is no joke, it is super deadly. I mean they fact checked the death rate

      OP uses the term 'they' without stating who 'they' refers to. There is strong correlation with this usage and the person using it being a crackpot.

      OP asserts 'death rate' without stating whether that's per head of population or per case of population.

      1. MatthewSt

        If they're saying it's 0.26% of all adults in the UK then they're probably not far wrong, if anything they could be over!

    2. Martin Summers Silver badge

      People like you are why this will drag on for much longer than it should.

      Covid is not a pleasant experience for those that get it bad. Conversely, some don't even realise they've got it. Unfortunately, you don't know which group you're in until you've got it or have been tested.

      May you live in interesting times...

      1. Jos V

        I hear ya

        I had to do a mandatory PCR test to get site access, and it just came back positive. Apart from now not knowing how long I have been positive, or whether or not I will develop systems and worse, it is incredibly disruptive. And I have been very diligent about masks/washing/distancing, but it all becomes hard when dorks like OP keep throwing the "hoax" argument and toss all advice in the wind.

        If everyone would just follow simple rules for a couple of months -strictly- this thing might have a chance to stay under control, until we get large deployment of vaccines going.

        Anyways, no, I never turn on my camera, unless it is as an introduction to a new team (member).

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: I hear ya

          "And I have been very diligent about masks/washing/distancing,"

          Wearing a mask doesn't protect you, it limits the effective distance you might spread the infection. The downside is that if you aren't accustomed to wearing a mask and keep adjusting it from the front, you may have touched a contaminated surface and then rubbed your fingers on the front of the mask right in front of you nose and mouth. You have to fight that reflex to fiddle with the mask except from the straps when it irritates.

          Distancing is your best defense and trying not to handle things that others have recently handled. You could be safer not having items delivered to your home. Who knows how many people have touched the box, packaging and contents on the way to you.

          I'm also a bit concerned with hand sanitizers. Our bodies have developed defenses against germs over the generations and we kill all of that off with those products. Since the principle ingredient is alcohol that evaporates very quickly, there isn't anything left on our hands one way or the other. Would a virus prefer that? I have to constantly fend off all of the people that are pushing sanitizer on me. I have no idea if it's the counterfeit stuff made with methanol.

          What was the topic again?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, some people get it and they survive.

      Hey, I got an electric shock once from the mains supply once but I survived it. Other people have told me that the same thing happened to them. So, let's not bother with things like RCDs and insulation because, "they" have shown that electric shock doesn't have to be fatal. Think of the time and money we'd save.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        So you got an electric shock.

        you survived. Great.

        With Covid, many people are suffering horrendous long term side effects many of which will be with them for the rest of their lives. Covid-19 IS NOT THE FLU. It is far more deadly to a larger part of the population.

        I'm one of the high risk section of the community (cancer survivor and an impaired immune system). I didn't leave my home from Mid March to late July. Now I'm confined at home again.

        Enjoy spreading the disease. You may not even know that you are contagious. At least you survived your electric shock. I would probably not survive Covid-19.

        That gives you a very different outlook on life and the prospects ahead.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So you got an electric shock.

          I think the sarcasm in my post may have passed you by, Personally I think that anyone who dismisses The Covid as "like the flu" and "not a big deal" is an ignorant and irresponsible f***ing muppet.

        2. fidodogbreath

          Re: So you got an electric shock.

          Dear El Reg Exchequer of the Icons,

          We, the commentardiat, have identified a compelling need for something like this.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: So you got an electric shock.

            Isn't the goal of a true el'reg commentator to have made a sarcastic post that ONLY receives downvotes from idiots who didn't get it ?

            1. RM Myers

              Re: So you got an electric shock.


          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: So you got an electric shock.


            Until the much needed icons are available ....... WHOOSH ...... will suffice !!!

      2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        I got an electric shock once from the mains supply once

        Once? You're obviously a quicker learner than me.

        1. A K Stiles


          I too experienced the 'interesting tingle' of 240V AC, once. That was one more time than I wish I had experienced it and has caused me to be considerably more diligent in making sure I don't experience it again.

          Kind of like doing what I can sensibly do to avoid stepping in front of moving vehicles, drinking poisons, cutting parts of me with power tools or knives, oh and catching, or potentially spreading illnesses which might be fatal or life-changing to anybody, let alone the people I know and care about.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I stuck a knitting needle into a power socket when I was about 6. Just to see what happened. Turned the plug upside down to stick the longer pin in to open up the little protective hatch on the live terminal. Then just stuck it in and poked it around. Found myself very rapidly on the other side of the room with a very strange feeling in my arm. Only did it once. Never told my parents.

      3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        More people are killed by tea-cosies every year than Hydrogen bombs - but the petty minded bureaucracy in trying to buy even the smallest thermonuclear device is ridiculous

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      ...because one of my under 40, gym-visiting, keen mountain-biker colleagues was offline for a week. When I saw him next over Zoom, he looked like death warmed up. Apparently "he felt much better than he did before"...

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Really?

        That's why I scrupulously avoid being under 40, going to the gym or mountain biking

  8. hfo1

    I think it depends on the situation. Specifically if you know the people already then audio only is fine but when you are talking to people for the first time it helps to see them as well?

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      RE: The situation

      My first thought was no but then situations where an image would help leapt to mind. What about those calls from 'Microsoft' technical support telling me my non-existent windows computer is running amok? How about that call from 'Amazon' telling me I am about to be charged £79.99 per month for the Prime account I do not have? Wouldn't it be great to actually see these people.

      Just a minute ago I was reading an advert on this very publication for a service that only costs 16,000 roubles. For the equivalent of just $200 and a photo of the caller facial recognition AI will be deployed to discover where the caller shows up on CCTV cameras. Of course the scammers will respond with the other advert on the same page: AI deep faked video. Perhaps next time the 'IRS' are about to arrest me in the UK for tax evasion unless I hand over my bank details the call will come from Charlize Theron. I can hardly wait.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: RE: The situation

        But "Charlize Theron" probably will then blackmail you into stripping naked for the Web cam. You don't want that! And neither do I! :-)

  9. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    For the past couple of video conferences I've been on, a video feed from participants was actually quite useful. Seeing them silently mouthing words gave a visual confirmation that they were still there but had forgotten to take themselves off 'mute' yet f***ing again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Killer app idea for VC software: if the local user is muted, and their microphone starts picking up audio (audio other that what is coming out the speakers), then put a conspicuous notice on the user's screen that they're muted (and maybe unhide and hilight the unmute button).

      No, don't automatically unmute, that will lead to unemployment.

      That's the easy idea. After that, implement an audio filter that can remove dogs, kids, traffic, and (for the sales droids) the seatbelt chime from a car.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        La la, no one can hear you

        I think Microsoft Teams does do that. I've only seen it when we are addressed by the boss - amongst ourselves we use something else (Vosene...?) - but since we're all told to mute while he talks, I noticed it flashed up something like "Your microphone is muted" when I made noises involuntarily during the speech.

        1. Martin Summers Silver badge

          Re: La la, no one can hear you

          "when I made noises involuntarily during the speech."

          Was that a case of really enjoying the speech, or something you'd brought up in another window?

        2. TSM

          Re: La la, no one can hear you

          Yep, Teams does this. We've been having a fortnightly address from our CEO (during which the rest of us are muted, naturally) and it's amusing to see Teams helpfully remind me that my microphone is muted whenever I happen to cough or blow my nose while that's going on.

        3. stungebag

          Re: La la, no one can hear you

          Zoom does it, too.

          I find the best way to handle someone being on mute is to turn off my loudspeakers.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        > if the local user is muted, and their microphone starts picking up audio ... then put a conspicuous notice on the user's screen that they're muted

        My partner was on a Zoom cookery class earlier, I overheard the tutor telling people to mute their mike's because their vigorous vegetable chopping was causing audio problems....

        1. A K Stiles

          I have the joy of regular teams meetings with a colleague who, having asked a question will then persist in muttering "yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, mmm-hmm, yeah" in agreement all the way through a reply (without having heard the detail of the reply), thus causing the audio from the potentially interesting or useful reply to drop out repeatedly.

          1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            I have heard choppy audio for that reason...

            Time lag in video calling bothers me. If someone's on the other side of the world, it's just physics, but closer by, it is electronics.

  10. Roger Kynaston

    Not perfect but not awful

    Video conferencing is not as good as face to face of course. But needs must in these times. As a family we have set up a zoom call so we can all see each others faces at least which has worked well. My Brother in Porto was able to give us a tour of his new flat.

    Of course the lack of a standard like the telephones have is not good but that requires a political will to set up an agreed standard and then enforce it through international treaties. I know that this is not the way that many in our industry like to work but it is necessary if this industry is going to mature. I'm straying off topic so will stop at the entrance to that rabbit hole.

    Finally, I would prefer to be able to mute myself and do something else in my pointless meeting rather than struggling to stay awake in a stuffy room at same pointless meeting. Once again, get rid of the pointless meeting rather than the medium for having the meeting (room, video platform or whatever).

    Have I outraged enough people yet?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Not perfect but not awful

      Video conferencing for 1-1 works very well, for non-technical calls between people who might be uncomfortable talking to a computer (ie granny to 3 year old) it's excellent.

      It would be nice if you didn't have to spend 15minutes explaining to granny why she needed to sign up for an address to use microsoft teams but have a facebook account to use wibble and buy etherium to register an account on pling-plong cos that is the only platform supported by her grand-daughters school play.

  11. Big G

    You wot mate!

    I know this piece is opinion.

    And y'know what they say about opinions. They're like assholes - everyone's got one and only you are interested in yours.

    However... here's mine (opinion).

    I started a new job in April - yeah, I know.

    I've never met any new colleague in person.

    Without video I would have virtually (yeah) no relationships with them.

    But I do. because video.

    Teams rules, my beyatches

    peace out.

    1. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: You wot mate!

      Video has its place but regular meetings with people you know is not that place. I find voice + screen share far more useful.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: You wot mate!

        For multiple people meetings - certainly, I don't need to see a grid of 49 men in suits looking like a bad version of the muppet show opening scene

        For daily one-one calls to my minions it's nice to have a bit more of a connection, especially for picking up are they ill/stressed/tired/depressed. Of course I solved that in true engineering management style by having a bit-field of psychiatric state and having them update it regularly.

    2. I am the liquor

      Re: You wot mate!

      Opinions are like noses: everyone's got one, but given the choice you'll always pick your own

  12. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Hear Hear! I'm glad somebody else is saying it. I've been wanting to throw Zoom through a window if I could.

    There's no damn title bar, so HTF do I move windows?

    I can't "select" a speaker to see what they're saying.

    The only way for zoom into a speaker's picture is for *them* to rape forbibly take over your screen and push everything away - and f o r c e y o u r c o m p u t e r t o a c r a w l.

    I can't show other people something in my window, I have to either hold a printout in front of the camera, or set a virtual background and hold a blank sheet over the camera.

    There's too much extraneous crud. If I resize the window so I can see something else, it resizes the empty bits to keep the empty bits, so I lose about 25% of my screen estate.

    And the only way to experiment with it is to participate in an actual meetings. It is completely functionless outside a meeting, so you can fiddle with it to find what the controls are and how to use it, until you're in an actual meeting when you're supposed to be in the actual meeting not fiddling with the computer.


    1. bigmacbear

      Zoom (like most of these tools) has a lot of switches and levers, some of which you control and some of which the meeting host controls. For instance, the host can turn on or off the ability for participants to share their screen, and it looks like your meeting host may have turned this off.

      Also, there's a big difference between the browser-based and downloadable apps. Some systems (WebEx is one of them) will not allow you to host a meeting from the browser alone, as the hosting functionality is only in the app.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        But "share your screen" isn't "share your screen" it's "take over everybody else's screen - which is ****NOT********what I want. I want to...... share my screen (or ideally, just a window). That is, just place an image in my image window ****NOT****** force myself onto everybody else's computer.

        See ZoomQs

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          But "share your screen" isn't "share your screen" it's "take over everybody else's screen

          No it's not. You select "share my screen", and there's a popup to let you choose what to share (a screen, or a window). Click that, click share, and the main zoom window on other participants sessions is replaced by your choice. They can move/resize/ignore that as they wish.

          See ZoomQs

          Almost everything on that page can be answered by RTFM, except perhaps the zoom in on one window.

          For items like participants and chat you can select that they be popped out into separate windows. Close them by clicking on the same button that opened them. If you want to experiment just host a dummy meeting yourself.

          One complaint I have with Zoom is that the defaults are different on different OSes, and the Linux defaults for some of those things are more logical than the Windows one, but it's all configurable.

    2. stungebag

      Sounds like you're due some training. About 10 minutes would correct most of your misconceptions.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        There's the other flaw - you can't learn how to use it without using it for live. You have to actually be in an actual meeting for any of the "levers" to be visible for you to learn what levers exist and what they do. You run it to experiment with it and it just sits there saying "waiting for host to start a meeting". But the meeting's tomorrow, I deliberately ran it *today* to find out how to use it *BEFORE* tomorrow's meeting specifically so that I wasn't messing about in tomorrow's meeting trying to work out how to use the meeting software.

        I don't need to be in an exam hall before being allowed to learn how to write, I'm not forced to write a dissertation before the word processor displays the menu options and responds to keypresses.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          it just sits there saying "waiting for host to start a meeting"

          So be the host, start your own dummy meeting to play with it. You can't reasonably be expected to be allowed to experiment with someone else's meeting.

  13. anonanonanonanonanon

    Video is better than a voice conference

    As someone who has a great deal of difficulty tellings people voices apart, seeing people faces is a great help, as is just seeing the expressions, which helps me to understand people a lot better.

    TBH though, I've hated telephones for a long time, and it's much harder still if you're trying to speak and understand a foreign language, I find facial cues help a tremendous amount. I hardly ever even use voice calls on my mobile, it's usually spam, anyone who knows me knows to send text, chat, etc, and I speak to my mum on facetime, given a choice of calling a number or any other means of communication, i will hunt down any other method of contacting rather than talk to someone on a phone.

    1. Down not across

      Re: Video is better than a voice conference

      As someone who has a great deal of difficulty tellings people voices apart, seeing people faces is a great help, as is just seeing the expressions, which helps me to understand people a lot better.

      WebEx (and every other conferencing tool I've used) shows who is speaking whether they have enabled video or not.

  14. TRT Silver badge

    No standard you say?

    H.323 anyone? Been using it for many, many years.

    Zoom & BlueJeans do offer it. But they charge you an arm and a leg!

    1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

      Re: No standard you say?

      But they charge you an arm and a leg!

      And there you demonstrate part of the problem.

      Yes the standards exist - but the vendors don't support them, or grudgingly support them but "dissuade" you from using them, because - like faecesborg - they want to lock you, and everyone you want to communicate with, into their ecosystem. The money is in locking people into your ecosystem and making sure there's no room for annoying little upstarts to come and steal your income streamcustomers.

      Until customers start turning round in sufficient numbers and telling the vendors "no I'm not paying for your sh*t until I can use it to talk to other people" then the vendors won't do anything towards interoperability. It's in the vendors' interests to not interoperate. But at ${day_job}, they seem very content to suck at the teat of MS offerings - even subscribing to the MS "evergreen" policy of updates whenever MS decide something should be upgraded.

  15. heyrick Silver badge

    towards the beginning of the end of the pandemic

    Says who?

  16. heyrick Silver badge

    Nobody wants to use this stuff. It's dehumanising.

    On a related note, that's pretty much my thoughts of a certain burger chain that used to be fronted by a creepy clown.

    You don't get to talk to the girls at the till any more. You get to prod a screen. And the only contact happens in the five seconds when a harassed employee drops the food on your table and rushes off to the next order.

    It's utterly dehumanising. They, the employees, become mere robots and you become mere cattle.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Nobody wants to use this stuff. It's dehumanising.

      And the mere cattle become tasty burgers.

      1. Duffy Moon

        Re: Nobody wants to use this stuff. It's dehumanising.

        "And the mere cattle become tasty burgers."

        Well, burgers anyway.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Nobody wants to use this stuff. It's dehumanising.

          Have you tried a Kahuna burger?

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Nobody wants to use this stuff. It's dehumanising.

      On the rare occasions that I visit an evil beef clown joint I always make a point of bypassing the machines and ordering at the counter. In the same way that I always give the self-service checkout at the shops a wide berth and pay for my purchases at a checkout staffed by a real human being.

      What really frustrates me is how eager the staff are to direct me to the self-checkout, even when I've said I'm happy to wait for a person-equipped checkout to become's like they don't realise that they're encouraging me to make them redundant

      1. Tom 38

        Re: Nobody wants to use this stuff. It's dehumanising.

        Yeah, nah. The self service machines don't threaten their jobs, they threaten their job role. Instead of having to service a line of people in a probably sub-optimal order, they are free to do other things. In any McDs with self service machines, they now offer table service. Inventing the gun didn't get rid of soldiers.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nobody wants to use this stuff. It's dehumanising.

          Employee count at stores fitted with kiosks goes up compared to before installation ... that’s the very same stores. Customer feedback improves, time to customer getting food from completion of order falls. Again, I know the numbers, hence AC.

      2. oiseau

        Re: Nobody wants to use this stuff. It's dehumanising.

        What really frustrates me ...

        ... don't realise that they're encouraging me to make them redundant.


        Two or three years ago, one of the three important local (albeit foreign owned) supermarket chains started to implement this self-checkout thing by means of which you ie: the customer, instantly become an unpaid employee by doing the work paid cashiers do.

        For the obvious reasons, I had never used it and was not going to.

        But one time, as I was patiently waiting in line to check out a small purchase, an employee standing by the self check-out machine started to visibly call at me to use the new service, to which I made signs to the effect that it was allright, that I could wait.

        The third time she called out to me I obliged, but only to make it clear to her that the reason I never used said service was because, if in the long run it ended up being widely accepted, people like her would eventually be made redundant and that I thought it was an outrage that their guild/union was not acting on their behalf.


        I was all but told off, like if I was speaking to the manager or a shareholder of the company.



        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Nobody wants to use this stuff. It's dehumanising.

          Turkeys voting for Christmas...


          "An Amiglion Major cow. I'll bring him over.

          OK, we'll meet the meat. That's cool!

          A-hem... Good evening, madam and gentlemen, I am the main dish of the day. May I interest you in parts of my body?

          Something off my shoulder, perhaps? Braised in a white wine sauce?

          Your shoulder?!

          Well, naturally mine, sir. Nobody else's is mine to offer! The rump is very good, sir. I have been exercising and eating plenty of grain, so there's a lot of good meat there. Or a casserole of me, perhaps?

          You mean this animal actually wants us to eat it?

          It's the most revolting thing I've ever heard! I don't want to eat an animal that's inviting me to!

          It's better than eating an animal that doesn't want to be eaten.

          That's not the point. Well, maybe it is the point. I don't want to talk about it. I'll have a green salad.

          May I urge you, sir, to consider my liver? It must be very rich and tender by now. I have been force-feeding myself for months.

          Green salad, please.

          A green salad!

          Is there any reason why I shouldn't have a green salad?

          I know many vegetables that are very clear on that point, sir, which is why it was decided to cut through the whole tangled problem by breeding an animal that actually wanted to be eaten and was capable of saying so clearly and distinctly. And here I am!"

      3. NATTtrash

        Re: Nobody wants to use this stuff. It's dehumanising.

        On the rare occasions that I visit an evil beef clown joint I always make a point of bypassing the machines and ordering at the counter.

        Good for you...

        For those in doubt: read the microbial swap test studies that found more poo buggies on those screens than there is meat in those burgers. Which end up on your hands... With which you eat that "tasty burger"... And since the evil clown pushes out so much crap for the virginal target population child mind so no more resources were left for plain utensils...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nobody wants to use this stuff. It's dehumanising.

          You touch that thing with your hands?

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nobody wants to use this stuff. It's dehumanising.

        Average spend increases by over 12% at self serve kiosks. Trust me, I’ve worked the numbers.

  17. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Standards are a wonderful thing, people

    THAT is why we have so many

  18. big_D Silver badge

    Rushed roll-out

    We had to have a rushed roll-out of Teams during the first lock-down.

    Most of our users still don't have cameras, although 99% at least have a headset.

    It is so popular, that I spend maybe 4 hours a week training new users, but about an hour a month actually in video calls, if that, outside the training.

    Our company uses it for home office users to keep in touch with their colleagues in the office, so they call up when there is a problem or they have something to discuss. 90% don't want a camera and even if they have a camera, they don't generally use it.

    Luckily, the company doesn't believe in pointless meetings, so actual multi-user meetings are few and far between - one department does a daily get-together for about 15 minutes, to discuss what happened and what needs to be done tomorrow. The rest use it like a telephone.

  19. storner

    Have used it once during the past couple of months

    A virtual friday-afternoon bar with some ex-colleagues. For work purposes, the camera stays off (hidden behind a slider, actually) - and since I am IT security, I have the "for security purposes" excuse if someone asks my why.

  20. fidodogbreath

    Don't open the door!

    The one guy on our dev team who turns on his camera works in his garage and has an ancient low-res webcam that apparently sits on top of something very tall. The net effect is the classic "grainy surveillance video of the stalker in the apartment building lobby" movie trope. I don't know if that's an intentional protest on his part, but it does provide an amusing commentary on the artificiality of the VC medium.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Don't open the door!

      I couldn't get my webcam to work, so I've been using an endoscope, and as it has no mounting points being hand-held, I wedged it into the bookcase - giving a low-res low-update top-down view, and now you mention it, just like a securicam. ;)

  21. Erik4872

    I've been trying not to use it

    Most of us are doing audio-only, but we sometimes have to do video when talking to the extroverts among us who are in love with it. I agree it needs to die as a primary means of communication. People just aren't meant to be reduced to a head-sized rectangle in Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

    Unfortunately I think we're too far down the track. I work in the airline industry and IMO video conferencing is an existential threat. At least here in the US, airlines make most of their money on last-minute business travel -- the people paying $3K for a same-day first class seat subsiidize all those paying $99 for the same flight. If all those useless last minute meetings disappear, then leisure travelers are going to have to pay what it actually costs the airline to get them to their destination. OK, maybe it's not an existential threat, but it will require conditioning customers that they're not going to get something for nothing anymore because a key source of revenue has dried up. Either that, or the capacity will shrivel up to nothing in an attempt to drive up prices.

    1. fajensen

      Re: I've been trying not to use it

      Useless, last-second meetings will remain. Their actual purpose is to signal Importance, Authority and Exclusiveness, especially amongst the testoterone soaked alpha-male managers and consultant class.

  22. elaar


    A problem with VC is that often you're used to using it with the video off, and then on the odd occasion you get caught off-guard and find out everyone has video on and they request you to turn yours on too. Last time that happened I had to quickly whip my jumper off so people didn't notice I'd spent the morning painting the bathroom, only to remember that I was wearing an old t-shirt with a Mr-T print on the front, and a splodge of white paint on my cheek.

    When people haven't had hair cuts for months on end and growing lockdown beards, surprise video requests are a bit unfair.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Unfair

      >When people haven't had hair cuts for months on end and growing lockdown beards, surprise video requests are a bit unfair.

      Too many years back I discovered one of the best ways to get people (of different grades and jobs) to communicate etc. was to get them to give up a day and do a gardening/house redecoration project (aka community service) where the dress code was "wear clothes that will get dirty".

  23. Barry Rueger

    Ah, but it can work.

    I've actually been doing French classes with the Alliance Francaise using Zoom, and they've been great.

    Much of that is down to an excellent instructor, but Zoom has been flawless.

    I agree that VC is the current wild west, but that doesn't make it useless.

  24. DenonDJ DN-2500F

    Put the other parties off with a dirty picture

    Stick a couple of magnifying lenses or a couple of layers of Sellotape in front of the camera.

    People will soon ask you to turn off the camera!Anini3x-cf4gxJ5_DPxcVGCOY8kO1g?e=ZbcKE0

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blue Jeans...

    I visited their HQ, met the founder, and heard their pitch when they were a tiny( or tinier) startup. I recall the big vision was they were going to come up with a platform that was ubiquitous and would interopp with Polycom, Cisco, and the other video web chat platforms.

    Maybe they got there, maybe not. I know the I had to use the platform recently for work, and it was abysmally bad - choppy video, unsynced audio...that was a call that should have been done over the phone, since everyone killed their video anyway.

    Like the author, my worklife makes the difference between normal, shelter-in-place, and social distanced indistinguishable. Previously I got away with just a Zoom account (was WebEx but I found Zoom to be more reliable didn't insist on running at startup), now I have to install a bunch of clients...I got up to five there for a while. Then I deleted almost all of them completely. I generally will install as part of my call prep, and uninstall anything other than Zoom after the call. My informal survey of all the platforms has left me with the conviction the Zoom is the best of the lot. Calls that I am driving are always Zoom and everyone seems to already have the client installed.

    The ankle biter WebConference platforms will eventually burn through their Venture Capital and flame out. They could hope to be acquired if they have anything ground breaking...but none of them do, other than Zoom (Best green screen technology around if you actually use it with a green screen).

  26. HereAndGone

    Virtual Camera

    Don't forget, it's your camera on your machine under your control.

    Do a quick search for "Virtual Camera".

    By running virtual camera software, you now have a Video Man In The Middle.

    You can feed through the live camera when needed.

    You can replace the image with a static photo.

    You can run some other video.

    You can even run pre-recorded video loops like the Hollywood movies.

    Stop complaining about a chronic technical problem. Leverage a technical solution!

    It's fun, it's easy. Annoy your friends!

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Video adds to audio

    25 years ago I worked for one of the oil & gas majors, advising drilling operations on efficiency, health and safety, competence and overall good management. I visited numerous offshore installations and their associated onshore operations. In almost each case, there were video links between the onshore office and rig (often, though not exclusively, satellite). One noticeable exception was an onshore drill site - just standard speaker phone (POTS) over copper landline...

    It was noticeable how much better the video communication was.

  28. 9Rune5

    Mobile phones are crap

    I can phone any phone on the planet and just talk

    In this day and age, that implies a _mobile_ phone. The quality of that call is crap, and many carriers will happily charge you an arm and a leg for what is shite service.

    And if you call me, I might be slow picking up, so you get to pay the phone company 10 cents listening to a pre-recorded message saying that the phone company couldn't provide you with a connection to my device. Why do you insist on keeping the mafia alive?

    OTOH, shoot me a PIM somewhere, and we can set up a lovely high quality call using the Internet. I have a fiber connection to my house, so there are no lost packets. Just a good old fashioned noise-free phone conversation. And the cost is simply part of the monthly connection charges I will pay anyway.

    I understand that you have reservations, but please don't advocate using a less capable and more expensive service. I just do not see the wisdom in doing that.

    1. rcxb Silver badge

      Re: Mobile phones are crap

      Even low quality cellular calls will have lower latency than most all internet connections. In live conversations, latency is serious. CD quality audio isn't a plus if the two participants keep talking over each other.

      If you want to use your internet connection, just sign-up with a SIP service and use normal phone numbers. If the other end is on a high speed network, you'll get all that sound quality you want. If it's a cell phone user, well, at least you can still communicate.

      1. 9Rune5

        Re: Mobile phones are crap

        A low quality cellular call will have less latency than my fiber internet connection..? Citation needed. (must be why all those esport gamers make sure to play all the online tournaments using 4G)

        "just sign-up with a SIP service" and pay extra? And the quality is still crap unless the other party has done the same thing?!

        I do believe wifi-calling will help, but unless the other party also uses it, it is kinda moot quality wise. (and the irony is that I still pay the mobiler carrier for the call, even though it is using my and my ISP's infrastructure)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mobile phones are crap

      In this day and age, that implies a _mobile_ phone

      really ? And even if you argue that there are more mobile phones than fixed line, that doesn't mean that I have to be calling from a mobile or to a mobile. The majority of call I make are to fixed line numbers, and a good proportion of those are actual real fixed lines.

      But the main thing is that you miss the point. Regardless of technical merit of different services, I can pick up a phone here and call any other phone. I don't have to think ... "hang on, this user is on mobile, and O2 at that, so I need to use a different phone". Similarly, I don't need to know if they are on a SIP phone with a PSTN number routed to it - I can just dial and it works. And it just works regardless of where in the world I am, and where in the world the other person is. Heck, if you knew the number, you could call me now on my "work" phone - which happens to be Skype for business, and I'm sat in the spare bedroom.

      And that is the point. If a meeting is setup with Teams, I HAVE to use Teams to join it - and experience the utterly sh*te UI that goes with it. I have a meeting to join on Monday evening, and I can only join that with a Zoom client - which for all it's faults is far far less annoying than Teams. Some of our work events I have to join with personal IT - because for security, our S4B doesn't connect with other S4B systems.

      As someone said, what we really need are standards, so we can choose our preferred client (note the singular) and join meetings regardless of what the organiser uses. No commercial vendor is going to willingly support that.

      1. 9Rune5

        Re: Mobile phones are crap

        The majority of call I make are to fixed line numbers

        Good for you!

        I can't justify paying for a fixed line number subscription on my end in addition to my mobile phone subscription. Not sure the phone company will even deliver such a service. (well, there is IP telephony...)

        As someone said, what we really need are standards, so we can choose our preferred client (note the singular) and join meetings regardless of what the organiser uses.

        Absolutely. I think it is just a matter of time.

        But the main thing is that you miss the point.

        I do see the point, but I want to avoid suffering low quality audio and a conversation mostly consisting of "you said you bought an...elephant?" and "oh I see, a _red jacket_". Same way I prefer e-mail over fax: There was a time you could fax any number of fax machines too, but the quality was crap and the speed was atrocious. Less spam though, but in the end people realized the quality was just too poor. You see where I'm going with this..?

  29. Alan Brown Silver badge

    take a look at this

    and not try not to hum the theme song whenever you're in video conferences

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There will never be Open Source communications...

    ...having a black box monitored by the security services is a prerequisite to being a Video Conference provider.

  31. rcxb Silver badge

    WebRTC is the answer

    Jitsi was mentioned, but glossed over. It has no interoperability problems and no programs to install on desktops (on mobile it works if you request the desktop site, or else install the app). Other WebRTC based options work similarly. You just need a modern web browser, click the link and you're off and going. It replaces all the WebEx helpdesk type apps as well, as you can share a window, and have a password prearranged for security.

    The only issue with WebRTC in general is that there's a transition from small meeting where peer-to-peer works great, to very large rooms that need a central server to do heavy video processing to deal with slow connections of some attendees.

  32. Haynomonous

    Cam optional

    "Couldn't this be done with one email?"

  33. Joe Gurman

    Just one thing....

    .... the acronym (or initialism, if you insist) "VC" was already taken, by all those successful, former engineers who have sold their first two or three startups and are looking for other, younger engineers to make money for them by the miracle of successful IPOs.

    1. dajames

      Re: Just one thing....

      .... the acronym (or initialism, if you insist) "VC" was already taken ...

      ... by the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, if I've Googled it correctly. I've been wondering what they had to do with teleconferencing ... but there IS a lot of interesting tech coming out of Vietnam, these days.

      That's the trouble with abbreviations -- they're brief, and so contain less information that the original. If you want to create a unique(ish) string that can substitute for a complex phrase I'd suggest a SHA-256 hash ... just don't expect normal mortals to understand it.

  34. EnviableOne

    Theres two completley different experiences

    there is what people are calling video confrencing (ala WebEx, Zoom, etc.) which is auful and de humanising, but portable and accessable.

    and then there is what used to be video confrencing, which is more akin to Telepresence, a fully immersive experince that cost $$$$$ and creates an experience as if everyone is in the same room, but you are actually miles apart. This needs light balancing, specific fabrics, carefully placed array mics and PTZ cameras, along with MTUs, QoS and possibly dedicated links. All the kit talks via SIP or H.323, so there is interoperability, but encoding is where it gets proprietary, and everyone has their own pet.....

    Zoom etc have made it acessible, but at the expense of the experience.

  35. Paul 195

    I've been on enough large voice only calls where I don't know the people and can't follow the conversation because of it, to really appreciate it when those calls are conducted over video. Even if not everyone switches their camera on, it's much easier to follow what's happening when you can see other people in the call. Which you can if you use something like the gallery view on Zoom.

    It's easy to have a voice only call with three other people you already know and say "All this video stuff is a waste of time, I don't like it". It's much harder when there are 20 people, and you maybe only know one or two of them.

  36. MachDiamond Silver badge


    Every few days it seems there is another story of Zoom or another video conferencing software being hacked. A the same time, companies and government mobs keep wanting people to sign in to a "zoom" session for some silly thing or another. Conferences have gone virtual which doesn't work for me. I want to get the company rep for a couple of minutes to talk about my needs and what they have that might help me out.

    In meetings it's sometimes useful to be able to lock eyes with somebody and exchange some body language to convey a thought. Not something easily done online. Other times you may want to whisper something sote voce (sp?) and don't really want it recorded anywhere to haunt you later.

    I'm not a fan of "meetings" anyway. The last thing I want is technology making it even more painful. It's not bad if it's just a beginning of the week team update so we all know where everybody is on a project and what we are aiming to have done by the end of the week. One company I worked at used to have short engineering meetings during the week so everybody on the team could have a chance to poke holes in a design before it was implemented, parts ordered, etc. It was a small team at the time and we all were focused on the goal rather than personal positioning.

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