back to article Meetings in the metaverse: Are your Mikes on?

The bloke next to me is acting strangely. Sitting bolt upright and staring straight ahead, he is holding his hand, palm forward, level with his face. "You don't need to raise your hand, Mike. It's not Zoom, ha ha," laughs the meeting's chair. Mike remains motionless, stiff as a board, hand still up, not saying anything. So we …

  1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge
    Pint

    How Technology Advances

    During the early days of my employment, communication between departments was via 'internal telephone'. Some callers were able to speak for a very long time without permitting interruption. These were generally people who didn't have enough to do.

    My supervisor 'Eric' was talking to 'Derek' and had been for 20 minutes or so with no sign of the call concluding. Eric placed the handset on his desk and walked off to the next building, up the stairs and quietly sat next to Derek. The one-sided conversation went on..... we could hear the burbling through the handset. It was some time before Derek said "Hey, I'm talking to you."

  2. Potemkine! Silver badge

    This description made look the Metaverse quite fun. For the first time I think I would like to see this happening, "for real".

    Meetings turning to such a mess are enjoyable from time to time. The comic consists in there being "something mechanical encrusted on the living"

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Although clearly he wasn't in the Zuckerverse. "No forgetting your trousers [tick]…, since in the Zuckerverse, nothing below the waist is allowed!

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Alert

        Heavage

        since in the Zuckerverse, nothing below the waist is allowed!

        The exposure of the Dabbs "Heavage" would be allowed.

        https://duckduckgo.com/?q=heavage&t=h_&iax=images&ia=images

        "Hairy Heavage"

        There is an "advertisement" on page 29 of the current issue (#1572) of Private Eye

        Price £13.99 per metre

        with an endorsement by satisfied customer "President E.M"

        https://biznewspost.com/uk-news/emmanuel-macron-tries-to-woo-younger-voters-behind-the-scenes-photos-including-bushy-chest-hair/

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Heavage

          "The exposure of the Dabbs "Heavage" would be allowed."

          I suspect the lovely Mlle Dabbs might have something to say about that.

  3. Howard Sway Silver badge

    into the psychotic pandemonium of the open-plan metaverse office

    Unfortunately the powers that be will quickly put a stop to the virtual anarchy, mandating that all these features be disabled for the ordinary users in the office through Metaverse Active Directory group policies. This will make it more vitally important than ever for techies to stay good friends with the sysadmin team, so that at least we can enable private Tiswas Mode during meetings and send a continual stream of custard pies into our bosses face when they annoy us.

    1. Stevie

      Re: private Tiswas Mode

      How about Spy vs Spy mode, wherein one can set elaborate cheesy traps for each other?

      Ejector seat chairs, boxing-glove-onna-spring in the photocopier, bucket of whitewash over door etc.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Trollface

        squint a bit

        boxing-glove-onna-spring in the photocopier,

        :s/boxing-glove/toner cartridge/

  4. pavel.petrman Silver badge
    Coat

    Golden!

    This is exactly how I imagine the Metaverse. Only with one more Mike, running in place in one corner about half a metre above the virtual floor. I'd be seriously disappointed if Metaverse stole robbed us of this age old phenomenon.

  5. lglethal Silver badge
    Trollface

    So many Mike's? Are you taking the Mickey...

    Sorry, I'll get my coat....

  6. Oliver Knill

    hilarious but also prophetic

    it is fun to read but one will have to learn it the hard way. already zoom is often comic. you see half-heads (camera position off), ghosts (bad lighth), real ghosts (no picture at all), people disappear randomly, people meeting while driving (!). But at least, when meeting on zoom, one still looks like half human to anybody nearby. With a head-set strapped on, doing wild gestures or movements, one will look like a puppet on a string. It was not predicted as such but Google Glass died not because of technological issues but because of social ones. They were dubbed glass-holes and comedy played an important role. There was the famous Saturday night sketch from 2013 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Uz3cwHT0S0). It was somehow comedy which killed the technology.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: hilarious but also prophetic

      Probably because some people, usually manglement, can't take a joke or at least understand a joke.

    2. Stevie

      Re: already zoom is often comic

      Just sat through a two-day course given by a pair of eyes and a forehead.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: already zoom is often comic

        Just the nose is missing... Chad/Kilroy:

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilroy_was_here

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tiswas Mode

    Ok. That has to be a thing.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Tiswas Mode

      As long as there's also a hidden switch for O.T.T. mode too...

      Although the flans do have a strong appeal all of their own I do agree...

  8. Coastal cutie
    Pint

    Even the real world is weird

    My late partner had an aunt (also now sadly no longer with us) who worked as an Account Director in a major advertising agency in the 70s and 80s. One day, the MD decided on the spur of the moment that they should extend a meeting and take a new client to meet the creative team who would be handling their campaign. They walked into the office, to find that after a rather good (3 Martini) lunch, one of the creatives had been trussed up into a ball and was being rolled at makeshift skittles down a long table by his colleagues. The client looked dumbfounded, the MD, rooted to the spot, went white, then purple and it was down to her to save the day. She ushered both men out, whilst uttering soothing words about how the company encouraged new and innovative ways of freeing up creativity by the use of play. God only knows what they could have done with avatars, the mind boggles. Beer in lieu of a Martini emoji.

  9. Michael Strorm

    Come Into My Dull Meeting Metaverse

    The new Mikes re-entering the room with the old ones still there reminded me oddly of that Michel Gondry video for "Come Into My World" that had multiple Kylie Minogues interacting with each other.

    1. noisy_typist

      Re: Come Into My Dull Meeting Metaverse

      A meeting full of Kylies - I should be so lucky.

      1. Steve K Silver badge

        Re: Come Into My Dull Meeting Metaverse

        They might make one especially for you?

    2. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

      Re: Come Into My Dull Meeting Metaverse

      In my original draft of this week's column, I had all the Mikes stopping what they were doing, turning to face me and saying "Mr Andersonnnnnnnn" but I decided I couldn't be arsed to come up with a funny reposte and, besides, I'd already made that metaverse-Matrix connection last week.

      1. SCP

        Re: Come Into My Dull Meeting Metaverse

        A very enjoyable read to start the Bank Holiday weekend - thank you.

        Considering the advances in AI I feel, a re-working of this NTNON classic seems overdue: [youtube]

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Self-replicating Mikes

    To prevent being overrun by self-replicating Mikes a software update will make the metaverse single instance like Teams et. al. Then moments after Mike freezes the boss will take a call on his mobile and utter the immortal words "Can someone kill Mike please?".

    1. ShadowSystems Silver badge

      Re: Self-replicating Mikes

      It's Mike's all the way down!

      I'll get my coat, it's the one with the pockets full of turtles. =-Jp

      1. HildyJ Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Self-replicating Mikes

        It should have been Interchangeable Emmas.

    2. Ozumo

      Re: Self-replicating Mikes

      Would that be a Mike drop moment?

  11. Franco Silver badge

    At least if you are going to have multiple Mikes let them be different versions from throughout the multiverse or like the Council of Sheldons from TBBT.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3lufjIMpO0

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I would prefer the council of Ricks myself

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Will someone please confirm, I am not the only one

    Real name [tick]. No scary heads [tick]. No offensive language [tick]. No weapons [tick]. No forgetting your trousers [tick]…

    Since the enforced isolation of Covid, even if you remember to put your trousers on before popping out to the newsagents for todays paper, that one sometimes returns, only to have the other half ask "have you been walking round with your flies open again?"

    Maybe its time to start wearing joggers all day every day.

  13. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    Just imagine...

    ... getting into your self-driving car after a meeting like that...

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Just imagine...

      Or the eleventeen Mikes getting into his two-seater Smart and driving off, at least half of them semi-floating up to 50m behind it.

  14. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    Reflecting on poor education

    No weapons [tick]… I left school armed...

    Oh, Dabbsy, are you being consistent again? To the naughty corner now...

  15. SgtFalstaff

    ...company executives would inadvertently be listed on-screen for the first half an hour as DRTYMUTHAFKR thanks to the intervention of their teenage kids.

    Sure, blame it on the kids!

    1. herman Silver badge

      Remind me again…

      Why I hired you?

      Because I am your son?

    2. Charlie van Becelaere

      Sure, blame it on the kids!

      I remember hearing early in the "remote learning" phase of the school lockouts of "students" who would change their on-screen name to "Problem Connecting" and put a still photo up.

      Teachers were generally not amused.

  16. Norman Nescio Silver badge

    Metaverse Avatars

    When Skype for Business was inflicted on us many, many moons ago, I discovered that the avatars could be animated GIFS. It wasn't long before all the techies had personalised animations, some quite clever. HR soon put a stop to it, requiring boring corporate photographs.

    Metaverse avatars could be anything. Attend your meeting as 7of9, a furry, Arnie, a rendition of Munch's The Scream, a Barney, and so on. I expect HR will put a stop to having fun and require consistency and a resemblance to your real-life appearance.

    On the other hand, a hacked client could put any appearance you liked on other participants as experienced by you, which could be fun, and maybe distracting.

    1. ShadowSystems Silver badge

      Re: Metaverse Avatars

      I just remembered the animated GIF of Kermit shagging Miss Piggy from behind & spanking her on the rump. I wish I could see so I could use the software & use the aforementioned GIF as my avatar. Because I'm a freak. =-D

  17. Daedalus

    Metaverse metafictional metaphorically

    It was 35 years ago, or thereabouts, that certain visionaries who shall remain nameless decided that we would all interact online via ourselves or "agents" (non-Matrix variety) who would stand in for us whenever we could not be in front of the obligatory two-way Visi-screen, to borrow from Orwell. Not having the absence of modesty predicted by Asimov in "The Naked Sun", we would be permitted to cloak the all-seeing eye while changing for that daily bike ride that was promised but somehow never materialised. Asimov's "Done viewing" would not be an option, at least during office hours.

    FF>> to recent years and fiction is now populated with avatars, real people and "fakes", the last being autonomous programs that pretend to be us in order to deal with those tedious formalities like acknowledging your message, remembering your <insert anniversary or significant event>, or telling you that your idea is rubbish.

    In fact, there's no reason why a simple mod of Alexa, Cortana, Siri or Eliza (a program that pretends to be a therapist), could not replace the average meeting attendant. Just add a different voice and change the name. If necessary, some sarcasm and a tendency to argue back and forth about nothing could be added, making the simulation complete.

    For the record, I am not a robot. Yet.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Metaverse metafictional metaphorically

      "For the record, I am not a robot. Yet."

      Prove it! Click all the squares that contain images of some culturally significant object that has no meaning to you or the country you live in but might mean something to the robot/AI conducting the test.

      (Is it just me that sees the irony in proving you are not a robot to an "AI" algorithm?)

      1. Daedalus

        Re: Metaverse metafictional metaphorically

        What gets me about the bot filters is how USA-centric they tend to be. "Click all squares with school buses"? I suppose a well-informed European knows about the yellow bus fleets, but who else? And frankly, some of those pictures are so poor that you have a hard time seeing anything, let alone a groundhog or a chipmunk.

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: Metaverse metafictional metaphorically

          Long experience suggests that most of the Americans who select these photo samples do not know what a bicycle looks like.

          "Chet, try thinking of it as a two-wheeled convertible without an engine. No? Um, OK, can you imagine a pelaton with a second wheel, and that only works outdoors? No, take the laptop off your head! Oh, FFS..."

        2. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Metaverse metafictional metaphorically

          I got one that wanted elevators ticking. Not a single picture of a moving staircase anywhere.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Metaverse metafictional metaphorically

      "or Eliza (a program that pretends to be a therapist)"

      ELIZA was only a therapist when she donned her Doctor persona; as ELIZA she was a general purpose chatterbot.

      If you have a copy of EMACS handy and would like to see ELIZA in action in her DOCTOR persona, fire up EMACS and type M-x doctor.

  18. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Mushroom

    and it's utter cacophony everywhere you go in metaverseland.

    Oh bloody hell, yes.

    With my work laptop (W10), I had to take great pains to reduce the sounds for actually pertinent events, like "your computer is on fire", to short blips, beeps and buzzes. The rest was excised from the humongous playlist that Microsoft has seen fit to attach to Really Important Events such as "a sound has been played". And then they have the gall to introduce a Concentration Assistant that does not do away with the multitude of visual and aural interruptions immediately and irreversibly, but just saves them for later. But I think I managed.

    Enter Teams.

    A colleague was explaining some of the edge cases of a new workflow to me, something hard to get from a document without some hands-on demo, when he had to take another Teams call[0]. Immediately a most unwelcome stream of "music" emanated from the speakers which I could only suppress by muting them. After a bit of investigation this turned out to be Teams' on-hold music. Which in our case can only be disabled by some sysadmin, as the relevant command (of course, no such checkbox in Teams' config screen) either wasn't installed locally or required admin privs. And of course it's not some option either in the gargantuan maze of twisty little passages that one enters via the Settings icon.

    [0] Of course it's sooo much better to call via Teams instead of using the device invented for remote voice transfer, the tele-phone. It's acceptable if you expect to have to view the other's screen at some point, but otherwise? Fsck off, and don't get me started on a Teams "phone" call using one's phone. But at least you can then still walk around, get a coffee and sit on the windowsill for a bit.

  19. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
    Alert

    Wifi-- NEVER!

    I have never had an issue using a wired connection for videoconferencing. Cannot say the same for my coworkers who choose to use wifi.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: Wifi-- NEVER!

      Cannot say the same for my coworkers who choose to use wifi.

      The newest batch of our W10 work laptops doesn't even have an RJ45 port. Mentioning the lack of this essential bit of connectivity I got a load of waffle about security[0], and only after being able to get a word in sideways could I explain that due to the layout of the house, the location of the access point and the stuff between that AP and my room a wifi link would be outperformed by a 56k modem, and be more stable to boot. Which before now hadn't been a problem as everything in my room, including the previous work laptop, runs via wired gigabit. This was countered with the irrelevant (to me) matter that they just had 80 Ethernet dongles for the entire batch. "So now it's 79". But after some more grumbling from their end I got promised a dongle, which actually arrived two days later[1].

      Several colleagues would rather also have one, but have failed to extract one from the grasp of the Office Automation dorks. In which case I would just buy one from wherever, and expense it.

      [0] as if, and in the end the (encrypted) bits will pass through the same VDSL link anyway

      [1] after the initial connection that pulled in an amazingly large number of updates, the Ethernet link on an USB3 port replicator I happened to have around started working, so the dongle I was sent is now idle. But if they ever find out and want it back they can go fsck themselves.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Wifi-- NEVER!

        Same here.

        Solved the problem with an Amazon powered USB3 expansion with inbuilt GigE jack. Total $35 or so. Paid for it myself as it was so cheap & IT bods had other more needy clients to service.

        USB3 dongle powered the gaming headset I use for Teams ($25, again, self funded because it works for X-Plane as well), the USB external keyboard, and the USB video camera (as the laptop is closed). USB-C and Displayport cables for the dual monitors complete the expansions which make my laptop much more usable at home.

        Surprisingly, not a single compatibility problem with any of the above!

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          Re: Wifi-- NEVER!

          Surprisingly, not a single compatibility problem with any of the above!

          The only naff bit was trying to wrestle the laptop to a) drive 3 screens (its own plus 2 27" Eizos) and b) to get it to do so with all three of them as one extended desktop, not with one of the Eizos just a clone of the laptop's own screen. This situation was finally reached after 783 or 784 times (I lost count) changing the screen config and its subsequently required reboot to see if the setting had now stuck.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wifi-- NEVER!

        I would have thought that a cable is more secure than wifi - from a phyiscal point of view at least.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Wifi-- NEVER!

          It is.

          The blathering was probably to try to convince me that WiFi was sufficiently secure rather than more secure than wired, but it was presented as if it was the non-plus-ultra in security with nothing else coming close. Which would likely convince the average MSOffice wrangler, but falls down flat when you're involved with the nuts and bolts[0] of IT. And anyway, the data between the laptop and whatever it connects to at the office is encrypted anyway whatever connection method is used for the last couple of meters.

          [0] and the duct tape, chewing gum and baling wire.

    2. Daedalus

      Re: Wifi-- NEVER!

      Even when we moved from the "cheap and cheerful consumer boxes" spread around the building to "mesh is cool mesh will follow you around" it was still common to find that, in the conference room with the mesh module looming UFO-like above you, you were still getting your feed from the lonely smoke alarm lookalike outside your office far away. Disconnecting and reconnecting was usually necessary.

      Not that we really needed the WiFi in the first place. Video calls where little can be resolved of the calling office, other than the fact that one person is hogging the limelight and others are wondering when the break happens, need relatively little bandwidth. A video call is just a face to face with the option to turn down the volume.

  20. SuperGeek

    Mikes!

    Which one of you is Mike Hunt?

    Sorry, couldn't resist. I'll get my coat....

    1. Anonymous Coward
  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apparently some people have little sense of visualising things in their mind - a condition called Aphantasia. That seems to be an evolutionary loss - as our ancestors presumably made plans visually before language allowed internal verbalisation.

    Not a problem for me - I had a successful IT career because I could visualise the interactions of parallel processes. In mandatory boring meetings I discovered another visual quirk. I could project my mind's eye moving image as a real thing in the room - with my eyes open. A sort of augmented reality. Such an ability would have saved UK MP Parrish from his indiscretion.

  22. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Real name [tick]. No scary heads [tick]. No offensive language [tick]. No weapons [tick]. No forgetting your trousers [tick]…

    This check list appears to be incompatible with a House of Commons Select Committee meeting room, virtual or otherwise.

  23. scrubber

    Missing the larger point

    As cute as this scenario is, wait until "Mike" is permanently banned from your meeting as well as the whole metaverse because he posted something on facebook that while factually correct is currently politically verboten. Then when it comes time to pay his salary the banks have kicked him off their platform too, assuming there isn't already a CBDC for the government to directly control. Mike has to be let go as he can't attend meetings, view online docs, or be paid. When he tries to get another, more menial, job, MS won't let him use linkedin because of something he said about a virus possibly coming from a lab. This is our real future.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Missing the larger point

      "This is our real future."

      Future? It's happening right now. I know a guy who, at age almost 60, was just turned down for a seat on The Board of a Fortune 150 because of something he posted to a private Usenet group (propagated to his Uni only) some 40 years earlier ... when he was 19 years old. It had been picked up by his rival for a seat in school politics and reposted to the school newspaper. The post was obviously just trolling, which he pointed out in the following issue of the very same paper. Ultimately he was voted into office at the Uni ... but today's Board decided that one joke post, made four decades earlier, trumped his 40 years of unblemished record in Corporate America.

      Enjoy your future, Millennials and Zoomers ... You asked for complete, total and utter political correctness, and it looks like you'll have it. It's OK, though. Your kids will rebel. Kids always do. Everything's cyclic.

  24. 4d3fect

    as if we're waiting for a dental appointment except without any copies of Readers' Digest or an out-of-date Ikea catalogue to keep us amused.

    No stacks of Highlights?

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