A reader in Ottawa wasn’t surprised at my confusion with a virtual meeting, as I explained last December. (Ref. 1) Chris Morry notes that these meetings are better today compared to the past but still not great. The problem is due to different meeting apps and the varying experience of the participants. Also the tricky features on some apps – you think you’re on mute and can’t be heard but that’s not so because the organizer has control of the mute on-off switch. (Ref. 2)
There’s a lot of meeting apps out there:
- Microsoft Meetings
- What’s App
- Google Duo
- Numerous other apps prior to these, many associated with Hotlink and Google
Some apps are old by today’s standards – like five years – and fading from interest.
Chris remarked at great length as follows after reading my blog as posted last December. His comments make for a good, informative read:
(He comes to his understanding after working for years in government on the effect of climate change on the aqua environment. Work that involved virtual meetings with different environmental groups in North America and overseas.
(He’s also the author of the book When the Great Red Dawn is Shining. This was a song sung by the famed Royal Newfoundland Regiment on their march to the Somme in WW1. His grandfather, one of the kids in that fight, kept a memoir on which Chris based his book. (Ref. 2))
“Your experience with these virtual meeting systems mirrors my own, and in fact my experience goes back a very long way.
“Long before Zoom, Microsoft Meetings and What’s App showed up on the scene, there was for a period of four or five years when a large array of competing virtual meetings apps, many of them associated with existing email services like Hotlink and Google, was driving everyone nuts. Indeed the latter two each had TWO Different videoconferencing apps competing with each other.
“From time to time I was asked to attend a meeting using a wide variety of these services and with almost invariably the same result – utter confusion and failed attempts.
“No one knew all the ins and outs of setting up and managing all these different services and, since they seemed to drop the one that failed and tried another the next time, the learning curve was not only steeper than needs be for the conference organizer but for all attendees as well and went on for a very long time.
“Here we are at the front end of 2023 and we are little better off in this regard. Many of my affiliations with groups like genealogy and historical research groups each use a different app, which means not only having to download all the apps (though some will run within your browser, they all brow beat you into running the meeting on their app instead) but also having to try the different ins and outs of using the app.
“Needless to say I am thoroughly poisoned with the whole experience and would just as soon return to old fashioned group emails. Even though they don’t allow for instant give and take, an initial email followed by responses by those with something useful to say on the subject, and possibly a further follow-up email to provide the consensus is not only foolproof but leaves you with a written record of the discussion for future reference.
“Every App, just like every computer program, requires learning the methods which are somewhat different in every case. In particular the methods used to set up a meeting and send the notifications and what to do with the notification when it is received. (This was my undoing; check Ref. 1 – Eric)
“Scam artists have figured this out and are ahead of the game trying to fool people who are confused by the whole thing. This very morning I received a text message pretending to be an invitation to a Zoom meeting. It did not say who sent it and the number associated was of course not one belonging to anyone I know. If I clicked the included link they would have me.
“Getting back to online meeting Apps, each one also has protocols about the organiser being able to control whose microphone is on or off at any given time. Just imagine how that would be blasted at a public meeting if the organizer chose to shut off your mike when you were trying to make a point! This overrides your own settings for having your video on or off (you can attend more or less incognito by keeping your camera off) and your microphone, which you can mute, if you want to say something to someone in your room in private. Of course both of these options have led to people getting into deep doodoo for THINKING the camera or microphone is off when in fact it is on.
“Lots of other idiosyncrasies of each App pertaining sending messages to other participants which you theoretically can send as a private message to just that participant or to everyone attending the conference. You can imagine how dangerous that could be. Yet these controls and how to set them are different in every App, making it almost certain that sooner or later everyone will fall victim to these settings.
“I recommend advising that one always assumes that the mike and camera are on even if we set them to off. It could save a lot of embarrassment.”
This was one of a number of excellent reader responses to my blogs that I have received over the past 10 years. This one by Chris Morry has given me a big heads-up. While virtual meetings are efficient and expedient, some of the apps have their broken parts. This problem is compounded by participants needing to climb a steep learning curve that keeps changing. That problem contributed to my confusion as noted in Ref. 1 below.
- Confusion reigned, due in no small part to me. Posted December 15, 2022 12:47 pm
- Morry, C. J., Christopher, blog reader in Ottawa, December, 2022. Friend and former neighbour. Retired government worker on the effects of climate change on the aqua environment. Author of When the Great Red Dawn is Shining, Breakwater Books Ltd., illustrated edition, November 15, 2014, 224 pages. A memoir about what his granddad experienced in the trenches in WWI as a foot soldier in the famed Royal Newfoundland Regiment.
(Posted by Eric E. Jorden, M.Sc., P.Eng. Consulting Professional Engineer, Forensic Engineer, Geotechnology Ltd., Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. January 31, 2023 firstname.lastname@example.org)