back to article Transcribe-my-thoughts app would prevent everyone knowing what I actually said during meetings

"Right, let's start the meeting. Oh, could someone take the minutes?" And my heart sinks. They'll see me and ask me to do it. They always do. Bloody minutes of a bloody meeting. Every bloody time. It was easier not to be asked back in the day when we used to attend meetings in a real room. If it was a big meeting with lots of …

  1. don't you hate it when you lose your account Silver badge

    10 minutes

    If a meeting last any longer it's just an excuse to toss off from doing actual work

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: 10 minutes

      We have an hour long meeting every 6 - 10 weeks. That works out at about 10 minutes per week, does that count?

    2. CuChulainn

      Re: 10 minutes

      You youngsters think you have it bad. Pah!

      In the 80s, I worked in a Powder Physics lab. To this day I cannot figure out how it lasted for so long in the company I worked for, since it contributed nothing to the top line figures and was just an overhead.

      This was the time I first learnt to dread appraisals. Since he had little else to do, my manager at the time lived for meetings, and appraisals meant he could elaborately schedule them in four times a year. What I am going to say next is not made up in any way, but they frequently lasted for up to ONE AND A HALF full days. Yes, days.

      Even the shorter ones ran for a full day (less an hour or so if you were lucky).

      If you wrote a report, the 'review session' with him on it could take up to a day, and this would happen after each edit.

      Even twenty years later, and in other departments and other roles, day long meetings were common, though most by then were only for an entire afternoon. Even the shortest ones were easily 2 hours or more.

      1. sev.monster Bronze badge

        Re: 10 minutes

        I am so sorry. I would go back in time to put you out of your misery if I had the chance.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 10 minutes

      If a meeting last any longer it's just an excuse to toss off from doing actual work

      There's a reason that the following is a poster meme:

      "Meetings - the practical alternative to work..."

    4. ColinPa

      Re: 10 minutes

      We had a useless manager who had a meeting once a week, where every one went round the table and said what they were doing. In theory each person got 2 minutes - but there was no control of the meeting so they got into design discussions. I worked on the mainframe and the rest of the team were midrange and had no idea about what I worked on. I just used to say "working on customer problems". These meetings were scheduled for 1 hour, often took 2 hours. I used to schedule medical treatment after the first half hour, sometimes the meetings were still going when I got back.

      We would have the same conversations the next week.

      When the manager asked "how could we be more efficient as a team?" My reply of "drop these meetings" did not go down well. I got a bollocking for not being a team player and for not supporting him.

      1. CuChulainn

        I got a bollocking

        I feel for you, bro'

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 10 minutes

        In an internship early in my career, the team I was helping had one of those. I usually didn't go to it, since interns are there to do the work when employees prefer to pretend they know what they're talking about*, but there was one week when I was asked to attend so they could read a post on security practice they had asked me to write. Which we in fact did for about five minutes of a meeting that lasted from 8:30 to half past noon. I did everything I could to avoid those meetings in the future.

        *This company had managed to structure itself such that all the employees were either clueless about technical matters or knew about and worked on exactly two things. Interns were hired to get work done. One in particular, who worked all year long (I just worked one summer) was the person who got all the difficult tasks. The L1 support employees would often escalate to that intern despite the fact that he was significantly younger and worse-paid. He also never went to that meeting. I believe his words were essentially "Wednesday mornings are the best because they're not here to mess anything up".

        Posting anonymously because well, you know already.

      3. brotherelf
        Pint

        Re: 10 minutes

        I didn't know my company has mainframes!

  2. IB2

    No worries, just record it

    No worries M. Dabbs... Can we record this zoom/hangout/webex/... for the people unable to join?

    No deeper darker hole than that. Yet also spare a thought for the service to mankind that does... a far future generation of anthropologists who will be able to discern the culture of the period from recordings of the "Sorry, I was on mute." chorus, or "My kids are in online lessons, so I had to turn of the video"

  3. TWB

    Snapped Ankles

    If they want their minutes back they could shorten the intro by about 30 bars - otherwise it sounded promising.

    1. You aint sin me, roit Silver badge
      Pint

      Might have been influenced by my lunchtime cider*...

      But I enjoyed the "intro".

      * It's Friday, I'm working from home. Don't judge me!

  4. stungebag

    Bloody meetings

    I used to be on the parish council and on the rare occasions the clerk was away I never got asked to write minutes as everyone knew that even I couldn't read my handwriting.

    But if I had written the minutes they would have been very short.

    "We spent 2 hours talking about dogshit again. Next meeting in one month."

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Bloody meetings

      And of course, if you want to make the point, or indeed just be truly zen, you'd issue the minutes before the meeting...

      1. PeterK13

        Re: Bloody meetings

        Is this not standard practIce?

    2. Dave K Silver badge

      Re: Bloody meetings

      I did that once. An issue on a council IT meeting went on and on as people on both sides couldn't agree. As the newb at the time, I was assigned the task of taking the minutes.

      This issue ultimately descended into quite a fiery argument that continued to run for some time and was quite difficult to follow. My minutes reflected this as simply: "A heated debate ensued".

      I wasn't asked to take the minutes again...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bloody meetings

        I was asked to change several paragraphs of who said what and to whom to "the meeting spent a few minutes discussing [something confidential]." Except it was about 45 minutes and was closer to World War 4 (Arthur C. Clarke's version) than calm and reasoned discussion.

        Unfortunately, taking minutes was part of my job description.

      2. CuChulainn

        I wasn't asked to take the minutes again...

        Good one!

        My tendency to write who had said what didn't go down to well most of the time.

        'Alan disagreed with everyone else and we spent the next 40 minutes discussing it'.

    3. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Bloody meetings

      This story is not mine but belongs to a family member who was hon. sec. to a parish council.

      At one meeting, a member of the council made several derogatory remarks about members of another sect which shared their parish hall facilities, remarks which were duly minuted.

      On the minutes being read at the next meeting, the offending member was appalled, and required that the insults be deleted from the minutes. The minutes of that meeting then read something like "Mr Emdash requested that the minutes should not record that he called the -----------s a bunch of flaming.... "

  5. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Bloody minutes of a bloody meeting

    Been in similar situations far too frequently.

    The usual problem isn't the minutes, it's the meeting. If you start the meeting with a pre-circulated agenda that consists of a list of decisions that have to be made and a set of actions that have to be taken and only record anything that is relevant to making the appropriate decision or that adds, updates or completes an action, it doesn't take that long. And if you hover your pen over the paper looking intently at whoever is speaking waiting for them to say something you can usefully write down it tends to encourage brevity.

    Unfortunately, the same people that refuse to prepare their meetings also refuse to take the minutes (and the consequences). The solution isn't software, it's to refuse to attend - assuming you're in a position to do so.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Bloody minutes of a bloody meeting

      Similarly no properly prepared and run meeting should even have an "any other business" section to it.

      Talk about what's on the agenda, and anyone who isn't organised enough to submit up-front what they want to talk about can either wait until the next meeting as an agenda item there, or just shut up.

      1. GlenP Silver badge

        Re: Bloody minutes of a bloody meeting

        Similarly no properly prepared and run meeting should even have an "any other business" section to it.

        Quite right! At a previous employer the chairman and secretary roles for the management meeting were on a rotation so one month you were secretary, the next chairman, then you had a few months break. I was secretary at one meeting where the two agenda items took 10 minutes, as everyone was prepared, and AoB took three hours.

        At the end of the meeting I informed them that the following month I would only accept AoB items that had arisen after the agenda was published. It cut the meeting time by half and decisions were made on a sound basis.

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Bloody minutes of a bloody meeting

        Yes. This and points above (Warm Braw) all rely on the fucking chair not being several stages below a half-wit who will a) be the one who hasn't submitted their agenda items, b) doesn't keep people to the agenda, such as it is, c) talks for ages about stuff that even they didn't want on the agenda and d) asks if there's any other business- even though we'd all agreed at the previous meeting(s) that we wouldn't have an AOB section.

        1. Caver_Dave Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: Bloody minutes of a bloody meeting

          The two extremes:

          I Preside over a youth charity where the Chairmen of the various meetings are learning from the experience and they can be the interminable meetings mentioned above!

          I am a Parish Council Chairman.

          I have all possible relevant information to hand before the meeting starts.

          We start on time

          We have an agenda

          Members of the parish get 3 minutes to talk about items in general (almost always agenda items)

          Members of the public get 3 minutes to talk about agenda items (usually developers with 'grand plans')

          I go through the agenda items, keeping everything on topic, but also making sure that everyone gets a say and summarising the public comments if appropriate to the agenda item. I also summarise the councillors' discussions if the vote is going to be split.

          Anything that a parishioner raised that was not on this months agenda is added as an agenda item for next months meeting.

          There is no AOB

          The meetings are recorded, and are referred to by the clerk to double check her notes.

          My record is 18 minutes for a fully attended (by councillors and not members of the public) meeting with voting on multiple items. It is a very rare meeting that extends past an hour.

          I know which meeting I prefer to attend!

    2. Commswonk

      Re: Bloody minutes of a bloody meeting

      The usual problem isn't the minutes, it's the meeting.

      A friend of ours is a now - retired architect, and he once recounted a story about a meeting he attended with a trainee in tow. While travelling to the meeting (which was about some "public sector work") he said to the trainee there will be one decision made at this meeting and on the way home I want you to tell me what it was.

      Come the return journey he asked if the trainee had spotted the decision, but the trainee had to admit that he had not.

      Unsurprised by this he said it was the date of the next meeting.

    3. Sam not the Viking
      Mushroom

      Re: Bloody minutes of a bloody meeting

      We used to have meetings to handover a project from Sales to Contracts. Sometimes the technical content from sales was vague to say the least, leading to some very lively discussions. The resulting action list would be hotly disputed leading to irrecoverable, unnecessary delays.

      Eventually the Sales Manager decided that they would write the technical specification for the contract. The project engineer would ignore it.

      1. Chris Miller

        Re: Bloody minutes of a bloody meeting

        And so while the great ones depart to their dinner,

        The secretary stays, growing thinner and thinner,

        Racking his brain to record and report

        What he thinks they will think that they ought to have thought.

        Arthur Bryant

    4. Tim99 Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: Bloody minutes of a bloody meeting

      About 50 years ago I was a Civil Servant. My father (a Senior Local Government Officer) asked me who I thought was the most important person in a meeting - I said that it was the Chair(man). No, he told me it's the Secretary - If it was not minuted it didn't happen; and agendum for the next meeting are posted by the Secretary. He *always* made sure that he was the Secretary - If he couldn't attend the meeting it was cancelled...

      An old saw: Why are they called minutes, when they take hours to discuss?

    5. Robert D Bank

      Re: Bloody minutes of a bloody meeting

      All to often these meetings with no agenda are a fishing exercise by the incompetent or brain dead trying to understand what is going on or to come up with an original idea of their 'own', which they duly plagarise and repackage as their own brilliance.

  6. Dr_N Silver badge

    "Smart" paper system

    The Oxford EasyBook system based on Anoto marked paper and stroke-recording pens was excellent for meetings.

    Including the margin markups to automatically generate to-dos, appointments and emails in Outlook.

    As well as some really excellent searching and writing recognition/conversion to text. Sadly the software got EoL'd.

    Onyx eInk Boox are useful, but the text conversion/search is not as good as the EasyBook software. (And until recently conversion was via China cloud.)

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "Smart" paper system

      If I can't read my own writing how can they be expected to?

  7. AlanSh

    That list

    Is perfect for a future BOFH episode.

    1. b0llchit Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: That list

      I'm sorry, that is hardly only BOFH material. I want such an app that can perform the whole list! I need that app. All us poor people, forced to attend, need that app.

      Maybe point 12 can be "Open window and let computer push one out". Then the BOFH part should be satisfied too.

  8. Coastal cutie

    Next meeting, cut your Zoom/Teams/WhatsApp/insert other meeting tool at regular intervals and blame company firewalls/your router/power cut/4G signal cutting out/software update you couldn't pause with a restart you couldn't stop/atmospheric conditions/full moon/next door's microwave. A few of those gets even the windbags fed up of repeating themselves when you do reappear and very soon you won't be asked any more.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      ...cut your Zoom/Teams/WhatsApp/insert other meeting tool at regular intervals...

      Excellent, sound advice. This get the BOFH stamp of appro<static>

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        But as the BOFH says - do it when you're talking not when the other person is talking, that way it looks more natural

    2. Caver_Dave Silver badge
      Megaphone

      I have once used the mute button on a windbag in a meeting.

      The rest of us carried on with the agenda, and I could see him going red in the face before he eventually left.

      1. Coastal cutie
        Happy

        I'd upvote you more than once if I could

    3. Giles C Silver badge

      It actually happened to me last weekend, zoom call for a club Agm, almost the end of the meeting and a power cut takes out my connection only.

      1 problem I am hosting the meeting and nobody else can control the meeting.

      Oops (i got power back about an hour later)

  9. Evil Scot

    In the world of zoom meetings, this still rings true.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcuP3VLFj70

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: In the world of zoom meetings, this still rings true.

      Even more so as now you can suddenly dragged into a Teams meeting with no warning whatsoever, any idea about what they've been talking about about for the past half hour, and everyone else is somehow convinced that you know the answer.

  10. WonkoTheSane
    WTF?

    Privacy?

    So, electronically recording the audio from the meeting causes "privacy" issues, but having you manually record what's said doesn't?

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Privacy?

      Right, because with meeting notes, the offender can always deny they said it. Not so with a recording.

      It's all about the possibility of denial.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        It's a business meeting

        Fuck the possibility of denial.

        Personally, I don't take minutes, but when the meeting is almost done, I specify aloud what I believe the conclusion of the meeting is. Anyone who disagrees can set me right at that time.

        If no one does, then I'm right.

        Whatever the issue, the first thing I do after a meeting is send a mail to all the participants where I state what decisions were taken. If it takes someone two months to disagree, well tough cookies.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: It's a business meeting

          I presume you're not talking about French meetings? Perhaps M. Dabbs hasn't yet had the pleasure of them.

          In my experience French meetings do finish with a conclusion and decisions, which are then forwarded to the manager (who was much too busy/important to attend). After a review of all the information, including some which the attendees didn't have (knowledge is power) he will then issue the actual decisions, which may not be the ones the meeting decided on.

          The French attendees, who expected this, did nothing in the intervening time and then started work once the real decisions were provided. The UK & American attendees, who had started work based on the recorded decisions from the meeting, then exploded as the meeting's conclusions were overturned and their work was seen to be wasted.

          No surprise that the collaborative projects rarely went well...

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Last straw

            Greek meetings. Well, a Greek PM. He spent the afternoon before going on holiday dithering about how work was to be allocated in his absence. When a decision had been made I went home. By the time I got there he'd changed his mind again. I decided it was finally time to announce my retirement at end of current project.

          2. CuChulainn

            Re: It's a business meeting

            One of my roles across various jobs was to write manufacturing formulae (aka recipe books) for the factories, making anything from shampoos, through medicines, up to tablets and sterile products.

            The problem was that every one written had to be 'signed off' by the manager of the department in question, the QC manager, and someone whose role I forget. Before getting there, it had to be checked by a qualified colleague and signed off by my departmental manager. I later years, it got even worse, since it also had to be 'approved' by the shop floor staff (the 'team') who would be using it, and anything they added was even more guaranteed to get you to be asked to 'think about it' (see below).

            In all the years I was there, not a single formula was ever signed off on the first pass. Although every signatory was a guaranteed bottleneck, the worst one was the QC manager.

            Even a formula which had been flagged for editing after being used for many years without issue - perhaps changing the name of a a machine used in it, which had been replaced - would trigger months of back-and-forthing as various other changes were requested.

            His favourite feedback method was to highlight a paragraph and write 'have a think about this one' next to it. I challenged him several times:

            "Look, Richard. Why don't you just TELL me what you want it to say instead of hinting at things? It hasn't been a problem before, so why is it one now?"

            One of the outcomes even involved calling meetings to 'discuss' the changes that had not been a problem until now - and all the time the factory was complaining the formula was out of date (they were pulled when edits were needed) and they had jobs to complete. The meetings were never held quickly, because it was almost impossible to schedule any meeting nearer than two months hence, because everyone was already booked up in other meetings.

          3. David Haig

            Re: It's a business meeting

            I always found meetings when the French were involved to be very civilised. Arranged with people who had something to input, a lively knowledgeable discussion, adjournment for lunch and I presume something happened after that....

  11. Rol Silver badge

    Back in the days when I was studying accountancy, I got volunteered to be the secretary for the student liaison committee, and with that, the unending task of taking the minutes at every meeting. I hated it.

    Well, it turned out that this officious body, with some quite wide ranging powers, was a stickler for protocols. One of which was that all meetings had to be called by the secretary - I would be approached, often by the head of the department, and asked to call the meeting, and I would duly comply.

    It wasn't long before my poor attendance to the accounting part of the course (loved the law/economics/IT/maths/stats) was being made into a serious issue and calls for me to be disciplined were abound. Trouble was, if I refused to call the meeting, that was surely going to see me get a severe reprimand, and possibly thrown off the course, there was nothing that could be done about it. And so, not a single meeting took place for the rest of the year, and I dodged not just that bullet, but the unending tedium of taking the minutes.

    I did manage to pass the course with distinctions, which took place at UddersFeeled poly, and my girlfriend at the time was from Clitheroe, and we never did visit Ramsbottom in al that time together, even though it was just around the corner. Fnah fnah!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      With Penistone just down the road (A629) via Cumberworth and Scout Dyke.

      1. Sam not the Viking

        ...and Turton Bottoms.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Other direction.

          1. Sam not the Viking

            Well it's near Ramsbottom, or "Tup's arse" as my father used to call it.

  12. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese

    In a former life I ran facilities for a company's main office. It was a 7 or 8 floor block, hundreds of people, and had a total of 5 meeting rooms that I was responsible for managing booking for (this is very pre-Outlook, and everything was done on a paper booking system, because I am old).

    Looking back, it's staggering...not only were there so few meeting rooms for so few people, but they were never all fully utilised. Meetings were the exception rather than the norm, yet the business ran just fine. How I got to the hellish state where my daily calendar is a series of back-to-back meetings (well Zoom/Skype/WebEx/whatever) baffles me.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Headmaster

      How I got to the hellish state where my daily calendar is a series of back-to-back meetings (well Zoom/Skype/WebEx/whatever) baffles me.

      "Progress", or so we're told...

    2. CuChulainn

      meeting rooms... never all fully utilised

      We had DOZENS of meeting rooms, and they were one of the major bottlenecks to arranging a meeting of your own - other than getting the required people together for a specific meeting on a specific day - since they were ALWAYS fully booked for months.

      We had so many routine daily, weekly, and monthly meetings (the entire company) that the larger ones were automatically fully utilised up to a year out. Then the smaller ones went.

      It was so bad that people from other factories were booking rooms in other buildings (our buildings/factories were huge). If we had a free one, someone was likely to book it from a location 1km away.

      Entertaining customers and potential customers in a meeting room was almost impossible.

    3. CuChulainn

      And in addition...

      To give an impression of how bad it was, if you'd got a meeting in a specific meeting room at a specific time, you'd turn up and stand outside whereupon several things could happen.

      If the meeting in progress was predominantly senior to you, it might overrun by some minutes.

      Those in the room might try to ignore you, so you'd knock and pop your head inside, explaining that you had the room booked from... ooh, ten minutes ago now.

      The owner of the meeting in progress might ask if you could go somewhere else. Yeah, right. On at least one occasion, we were told the room wasn't available - basically, to piss off.

      And in almost every case, one or more of those in the previous meeting stayed behind, because they were now in yours.

  13. Herring`

    Minutes

    Well, from Orwell, you should remember that he who controls the past controls the future. Taking the minutes gives you control over the past. Nobody reads them when you send them out so you can put what you like.

    1. Bill 21

      Re: Minutes

      It is actually quite easy to write the minutes up front, based on the last set. Make sure there are a few typos to give them some incentive to play. It turns the meeting into a collective go at a multiple-choice questionnaire. If anyone acts up, they get to dictate the changes they want - failure to agree a set of words means the first jerk collects the action to resolve it.

  14. Dr_N Silver badge

    "we live in a town named after a nearby river, the Lez"

    Dawson's Creek? Justifiable ban.

  15. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Rescue me!

    an AI monkey can write ersatz Shakespeare, so cyber-interpreting what the scrum leader is bollocking on about at 9am on Mondays should be a piece of piss.

    You're assuming that even the software will be able to stay awake.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Rescue me!

      You're assuming that even the software will be able to stay awake.

      It will, with a wake-up alarm every microsecond.

  16. Danie

    I know this frustration as I used to always make notes in meetings and distribute them afterwards - but they were my notes and I just noted the essences of things said. It was very quick for me to just fix formatting and then mail them out.

    I would hate to do minutes mainly because they chew up so much time later on getting it all into minute format etc. Problem with many minutes is that they try record everything said. Actually minutes should justy be a summary after an agenda point is finished, as to what action will be taken, and actually the chairperson should summariuse that for the minute taker. More than that, you are taking seconds not minutes.

    So how did I get out of minute taking.... Sometimes I would chair a meeting, but I always made sure I was the most involved person talking and said I can't really take minutes if I'm doing all the talking. Other thing was I worked wioth a lot of clienst and made sure our business agreements stated that whomever hoste dthe meeting would have the minutes recored. So most of my meetings were held at client premises and they provided the person to take minutes. I rationalised this by saying I coulkd not bring my non-existaent admin person to a client office just to take minutes.

    But despite all the above I always took my own notes for 100's of meetings and the main reason why was I could not remember always who said what, as minute takers invariably missed the critical points - even humans, especially those who are plain admin, did not always follow the context and nuances of the issues being discussed.

  17. Franco Silver badge

    Unfortunately, especially now where people can't be seen, there are still those who think they have to be "seen" to be busy and so the more meetings they have in their calendars the better.

    These people will also ask you in back to back meetings why things haven't been done yet and the answer "I've been in meetings" is never good enough for them.

  18. John G Imrie
    Happy

    Minuits are power

    If you have to record the minuets then what ever you put in them was what happened in the meting. If anyone complains then you just respond 'well that's not what I heard'. Eventually one of two thins will happen. Either everyone will start agreeing with your minuets in which case you just have to write up what you think should have happened or two the person arguing with you will become so irate they will demand to take the writing of the minuets from you and do it themselves.

  19. Shadow Systems

    I stopped being asked to take the minutes.

    I'd get invited to a meeting, show up with a pad of paper & a pen, & seemingly nothing else. The meeting would start, folks would blather on, & I'd sit there doodling, playing tic tac toe, or otherwise entertaining myself while the blowhards proved they could inflate a Dyson Sphere through their breath alone. When the meeting was over & someone noticed my pad of obviously NOT meeting minutes, they would start screaming at me. I'd smile, tap the side of my head, & say I had it all down. Then I'd leave the room to go type them all up & email them to everyone as proof that I did what I'd been asked.

    Because I was the PFY in charge of wiring up the meeting room in the first place - telephone, A/V equipment, etc - so filling the room with hidden microphones wasn't a problem. Feeding the audio from said mics to the server room to be recorded in real time wasn't a problem. Putting various CCTV cameras in the false tile ceiling & sending their feeds to said server was easy as pie. So making sure I had *EVERYTHING* recorded - every burp, fart, butt scratch, & bullshit utterance - was automatic.

    I'd calmly sit at my desk, replay the audio & video, transcribe *everything* - every burp, fart, cough, arse scratch, etc - and who did them, complete with HH:MM:SS.ss time stamps, whom had interrupted whom when & with what, and every other little bullshite waste of time that happened.

    What they got was an *exact* transcription of the meeting, put down like it was a TV/movie/play script, and only afterwards did I add in a summary.

    "We wasted two hours while Bob from Accounting whined that his chair is too firm, Amy from the steno pool played footsie with her boss, Dick from Sales tried to regale us with a story about how he once shagged the daughter of his best friend's aunt..." style normal summary, which got further boiled down into an "executive" summary of something akin to "You just paid us all to verbally masterbate for hours. Thanks!"

    The first time got me yelled at by my boss for wasting time. I said I'd spent less time transcribing them than we had making them. The second time got me yelled at for my summaries. I said that I couldn't determine any other pertenent data from the noise. The third time got me "sacked" from ever taking the minutes again. Nobody liked having THAT much info being made part of the permanent record.

    "Privacy" my arse. It's a corporate meeting of corporate employees. We have no expectation of privacy in such a situation. In fact, the legal department might have something to say about making damn sure they knew everything said at such times, the better to CYA when the shite hit the fan.

    Not that I cared, I just didn't like meetings, loathed being the minutes taker, & found ways to do my job "automaticly".

    And you jocks teased/bullied us A/V geeks. Suddenly you may be in the big chair at the head of the table, but little old geeky me is smirking at the copies I'll be keeping for later blackmail purposes, you pompous arse. HA!

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: I stopped being asked to take the minutes.

      The Grandmaster BOFH approves of your post, and commends you on a well-formulated plan of action.

  20. CuChulainn

    Flashbacks

    I really should stop reading this column. It gives me nightmares.

    Many years ago, I was moved to a new department in a field I had no experience in whatsoever at the time. I didn't actually want to go, but there was only one alternative (my previous role no longer existed, thanks to yet another reorganisation). Everyone knows what the first few weeks are like when you're dumped in something you're not familiar with.

    A couple of days in, I was 'invited' to a meeting, and once there I was 'awarded' the responsibility of taking the minutes, and typing them up. I didn't have a frigging clue what was being discussed, as it related to stuff that predated me by at least a decade, and it was overshadowed by what was then not known to me - that my manager was a procrastinating prat, as were all the other managers of the departments involved (I quickly discovered two months in that whatever was agreed at one meeting would be totally different to what we ended up doing after two or three more, and that my manager would think nothing of agreeing to things outside the meetings and then not bothering to tell anyone else until it came up in the next meeting).

    After I'd typed up the minutes, I gave the file the name 'WTFWTAA.doc'.

    Got in trouble over that.

  21. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    My hearing disability automatically disqualifies me from taking minutes.

    And I'm bored in meetings, usually I can hear fvkall what's being said and tend to daydream a bit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "[...] and tend to daydream a bit.

      It was in meetings or mandatory "fad"*** training lectures - that I discovered a previously unrealised ability. With my eyes open I could project for myself a 3D sort of augmented reality in the style of Pr0nHub.

      ***usually the result of the board recruiting someone from a failing company where his "pet" idea had proved business suicide. After a suitable period the would receive gardening leave and a golden parachute to do the same to their next company.

  22. This post has been deleted by its author

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    East solution, don't take minutes...

    Take decisions

    At my employer, a large national firm with locations in every city and town, the policy is not to take minutes but only to record decisions or considerations.

    It's a fine art now, where to ensure clarity of recording the person chairing (who is the one making the decisions) will say, 'For the log, the decision is...' and that's your cue to wake up and start writing.

    A three hour meeting can be capture with ten lines of writing. It's brilliant

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: East solution, don't take minutes...

      > only to record decisions or considerations

      Good idea but it won't work for most meetings, because it would clearly record their utter futility: Go explain hours and hours of time wasted in a meeting, resulting in a blank sheet of paper, ie nothing.

      On the other hand a big healthy collection of minutes is solid proof of time and money well spent. The more text, the better. It's not like anybody will read it.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: East solution, don't take minutes...

        There's a beauty in some meetings that are officially "record decisions only". As the interminable discussion of item 4 rolls to it's inconclusive inconclusion, looking at the chair and saying "OK, so what do we record as the action?"

        1. ThatOne Silver badge

          Re: East solution, don't take minutes...

          Wouldn't it be easier to just erase any record of that meeting?

          "Meeting? What meeting? No, we haven't decided anything yet, but now you mention it, we need to plan a meeting to procrastinate talk about that."

  24. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Simple process.

    1. Write extremely slowly, asking for pauses while you get it down and frequent repetitions.

    2. Next meeting issue photocopies of your illegible handwriting.

  25. Buzzword

    Easy solution: share the minutes on-screen

    When the meeting starts, share your screen and put the meeting agenda at the top. As the meeting proceeds, write the meeting minutes in real-time with everybody watching. This helps keep the meeting on-track and avoids duplication - everyone can see if a point has already been made. Similarly, if the meeting gets too long and the notes spill beyond what can fit on one screen, you can say "I think we have enough to take away for now" and call the meeting to a close.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I mentally file "Plymouth Hoe" with "Bakewell Tart" as both could be enjoyed at the same time.

    1. ClockworkOwl
      Angel

      You could eat one at the top of Smeaton's Tower, standing erect on Plymouth Hoe!

    2. Psmo
      Paris Hilton

      Surely the crumbs would chafe?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "[...] the crumbs would chafe?"

        Treacle tart? A custard tart is easier to lick up the remains afterwards.

  27. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Waarom

    I worked in Europe for global organisations that insisted that English was the only spoken and written language. I felt kind of guilty but the locals weren't resentful as they just ignored it and would speak among themselves and come up with a group position. So the monolingual English speakers came up with coping strategies. We'd listen to long foreign diatribes before responding, "Waarom?" or "Pour Quoi?" as if we'd understood everything, that's freak them. I taught my English colleagues Lowland Scots so we could talk amongst ourselves like Navajo code talkers.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: Waarom

      I taught my English colleagues Lowland Scots so we could talk amongst ourselves like Navajo code talkers.

      I am pretty sure the Dutch picked that up quickly enough (and didn't let on).

      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: Waarom

        Lowland Scots is a mix of Dutch and English, and we roll our Rs and cough our Lochs, but no, they couldn't understand the brogue. In my experience most ABN Dutch learned RP English from the BBC World Service, an ye dinnae fi ma accent on the BBC. To be honest Aberdonian Doric is far stranger to me than Groningen is to you.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Waarom

          You are overlooking the small fact it would have taken only one Dutch to understand it (and the gift of tongues is strong in us), who could translate it for the rest. And please remember, Dutch isn't a language, it is a secret code foreigners aren't supposed to learn. As for Grunnings, that is easy. It is part of a range of dialects I can understand all the way down to Cologne.

          1. Danny 2 Silver badge

            Re: Waarom

            Ach, you only have 50,000 words, it's not that hard a code to break. Prima, doiee, moi, lekker, ash too brief, thank you well. That's basically 90% of your code. Although I was grateful for my ex-fiancee to swear at me in so many ways.

            https://dutchreview.com/expat/learn-dutch/dutch-swear-words/

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: Waarom

              Ach, you only have 50,000 words,

              Those 50,000 are only the ones in regular daily use and a lot of them have double or even triple meanings depending on context. There are at least double that much and maybe up to ten times as much that are still within the language but aren't used daily.

              1. Danny 2 Silver badge

                Re: Waarom

                "it would have taken only one Dutch to understand it"

                I'm pretty sure they prefer to be called Nederlanders. I was taught to ask the prettiest Nederlander on the dance floor if she fancied a shag. Austin Powers ruined that for everyone. It took me years to learn how to spell viezerik like my true love said it.

                1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

                  Re: Waarom

                  I'm pretty sure they prefer to be called Nederlanders.

                  I am absolutely certain about that, but most readers here wouldn't understand.

                  I was taught to ask the prettiest Nederlander on the dance floor if she fancied a shag. Austin Powers ruined that for everyone.

                  You're a dirty old man ;)

                  It took me years to learn how to spell viezerik like my true love said it.

                  Dutch spelling is a lot easier than English spelling.

          2. CuChulainn

            Dutch isn't a language, it is a secret code

            Back in the 80s, I taught myself enough of it to translate an Atari magazine written in Dutch so I could use the code in it.

            I've still got the dictionary on my desk in front of me.

            Can't speak a word, though.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Waarom

        "I am pretty sure the Dutch picked that up quickly enough (and didn't let on)."

        One of our salesmen had lived in South Africa for decades. It was a standing joke amongst a government department customers that he had only ever learned a few greetings in Afrikaans.

        The truth was he had learned to understand it very well - but never revealed that fact. In a business meeting the language was English - but the government officials would go into Afrikaans to discuss disagreements amongst themselves. Our salesman happily factored the information so gleaned into his sales negotiations with them

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Waarom

          The better kind of practical joke, he deserves a ====>

  28. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Engineer on HR violence

    France murders: Man with hatred for HR suspected in attacks

    I dare any unemployed engineer to read that crime report without their first thought being, "Why didn't he disguise his number plate?"

    And sure we shouldn't be murdering job centre staff willy nilly, but a decent engineer murderer would have taken basic precautions. Maybe he deserved to be unemployed / caught.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Engineer on HR violence

      He was probably in a mental state where he didn't care and might quite possibly have gone on to shoot himself if he hadn't been stopped first. It's a frequent enough pattern in these sorts of incident.

      1. Danny 2 Silver badge

        Re: Engineer on HR violence

        Me, I've got a bucket list and I keep track of them geographically and by seriousness. I reckon I'll be half way through my top ten before the police even make a connection.

        To my credit I've delayed retribution for decades - best served cold.

  29. Irony Deficient Silver badge

    Ben Franklin

    I bet they didn't ask him to take the fucking minutes.

    If you were debating rebellion, would you want minutes taken? Plenty of them were taken in 1787 in debating what the post-Confederation constitution would include, though, and James Madison was kept quite occupied with taking those.

  30. David Roberts
    Facepalm

    Keep it brief and pertinent.

    Once attended a document review when the project had announced a change of scope which rendered the document redundant.

    Authors still wanted to review the document.

    Presumably one of their performance targets.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Keep it brief and pertinent.

      Soon dealt with. Tear document up and declare meeting ended.

  31. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Auto-minutes example

    ... of a weekly meeting discussing speech recognition hardware ...

    "At this weak meat tin, we disgust how a pea sea can wreck a nice beach ..."

  32. matthewdjb
    Facepalm

    You poor innocent fool

    He who controls the minutes controls the meetings.

    No one remembers what was agreed.

    So long as you're not too unsubtle, you can choose the decisions that were made.

  33. bartsmit
    Coffee/keyboard

    Audacity to the rescue

    You can set Audacity to record what your soundcard is rendering, rather than what your microphone picks up. On Windows, set your recording device to mix and Audacity to record from wasapi.

    This allows you to safely nod off with the odd chat message of 'having microphone trouble'. For bonus points, change your screen name to Connecting... and switch your camera off.

  34. CuChulainn

    And Then There Were Flipcharts

    When my company decided to introduce Teamworking and the number of meetings being held went through the roof, the new way of recording meeting outcomes was... the flipchart.

    There was nothing more disheartening than to sit down in a meeting, and at the first item on the agenda the owner would stand up, pull the cap off a marker pen - possibly several times until he found one which worked - and try to find a blank sheet to write on.

    It would start off OK, with a title (underlined, of course), but at the first non-linear (i.e. argument) situation a different colour pen would come out, then it would go all mind-mappy, with arrows everywhere. Once filled, that sheet would get torn off and fixed to a wall with Blu-tac, and then they'd start on the second page. Sometimes, things had to be added to the previous pages - often with a normal pen because there was no space.

    When senior managers did this, it was their secretaries who had to transcribe the Picasso-like artwork into 'minutes' for distribution. They were kept busy for days with rewrites because they couldn't understand any of the flipchart stuff.

    At least if you had to do it yourself, you knew what had been said, and even agreed sometimes. I can recall at least two occasions where we had an 'agreement', though these were not the preferred outcome, since they precluded further meetings on the matter. But at least you could ignore the flipcharts and make something up.

    1. James Anderson

      Re: And Then There Were Flipcharts

      Marker Pens. I used to buy them in bulk form office world and take a couple of fresh ones to every meeting/presentation as the ones in the meeting room never ever worked. Worse some d**kh**d distributed some indelible pens so some feeble resoning could be on display for months.

      1. D@v3

        Re: And Then There Were Flipcharts

        During my service working at a conference center, I discovered (due to some people bringing their own markers to our regularly re-stocked meeting rooms) that if you write over a 'permanent' marker with a non-permanent one, it often wipes off relatively easily.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Perhaps the reason an automatic meeting-minutes-taker has not yet been developed is because it's indescribably boring. Great minds, even artificial ones, prefer to do fun stuff, not dull stuff."

    Start assigning programmers to take minutes. Problem solved.

    Back to the problem at hand: "taking minutes" is far different than "making a transcription". Minutes should reflect who attended, what topics were discussed, what decisions were made (including vote tallies if roll call votes were required), and maybe a few items to be read in as official records (financial records, for instance). In some circumstances, discussion points should be noted ("the council discussed the fact that red paint on the bike shed may offend some people, but it concluded sealing the wood from the elements was of higher priority) if there's value in noting that something was taken into consideration. For a business meeting, the decisions made section includes any action items (including who is responsible and when the items are deliverable).

    Minutes should not contain a "he said/ she said" breakdown. They don't need a passive-aggressive comment on how long a discussion took.

    If you need a transcript, make a recording or hire a stenographer.

    Don't try to invent a hybrid between minutes and a transcript.

    1. CuChulainn

      You're probably right. It'd need some wicked AI to be able to distil the main point and outcome from 40 minutes of arguing about something, particularly when there is likely no definite outcome anyway.

      For making personal notes these days, I have a neat app on my smartphone which is pretty much spot on in translating speech to text, and allowing the text file to be exported. Useful when you're out and about and you have an idea you want to save.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you wish to takeover an organisation - you make sure your supporters offer themselves for the usually unopposed posts of secretary and treasurer. You then have the reins of power. The secretary makes sure that the minutes will always be biased towards his groups aims.

    Back in the 1960s our engineers had a staff association and gave short shrift to proposals that they should join a union. Two members schemed to be elected to the reins of power of the staff association. It was only after the association was subsumed into a large union that their true loyalties were revealed.

  37. Binraider Bronze badge
    Mushroom

    ...Record meeting. One of the best/worst additions added by teleconferencing capabilities; depending on your point of view. Certainly helps eliminate inane waffle if people know they are being recorded.

    We've even gone so far to say the recording is the minutes and actions on occasion.

    And there is a permanent record of who-says-what; especially useful when third parties say they are going to do something then don't.

    Just be sure to tell everyone the meeting is going to be recorded up front or you might capture employees slagging off boss X, Y or Z. Then again, such a recording can also be useful?

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