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Quartz Obsession — Videoconferencing — Card 1
Within days or perhaps even hours into the Covid-19 lockdowns around the world, newly at-home workers—not to mention students and family members— discovered a common affliction of our remote age: Zoom fatigue. It’s real and it’s relentless.
But millions of us would be rather lost by now without our videoconferencing tools, which allow us to stay close to each other, while also peering into the fascinating lives of our colleagues. Once a clunky technology without enough payoff, videoconferencing so quickly became an essential part of the way we live and work that it’s unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon.
Turn on your cameras and don’t forget to mute. It’s time to connect.
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Quartz Obsession — Videoconferencing — Card 2
$100: What the first consumer webcam, the QuickCam, cost when it debuted in 1994 ($175 in today’s dollars)
$3.2 billion: Amount Cisco paid in 2007 to acquire videoconference-equipment maker WebEx ($3.96 billion in today’s dollars)
8: Number of times Zoom Video’s China-born founder, Eric Yuan, was denied a US visa to work in the technology sector
$61.9 billion: Zoom’s market capitalization as of June 15, 2020
50: Maximum number of users who can join a group video chat on Facebook’s new Messenger Rooms feature
15,000: Number of customers subscribed to BlueJeans, the videoconferencing service acquired by Verizon in May 2020 for a reported $400 million
50 million: The number of downloads of Houseparty, the videoconferencing app owned by Fortnite maker Epic Games, over 30 days from mid-March to mid-April
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Quartz Obsession — Videoconferencing — Card 3
“Our bodies process so much context, so much information, in encounters, that meeting on video is being a weird kind of blindfolded. We sense too little and can’t imagine enough.”
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Quartz Obsession — Videoconferencing — Card 4
When Covid-19 hit, Darren Chait expected to see a big decline in meetings registered on Hugo, the connected meeting notes software company he co-founded. After all, he noted, “[a]s business slows down, as sales pipelines dry up, and as in-person meetings are canceled, it’s only logical that people would be having fewer meetings for the foreseeable future.”
Wrong. Workers in lockdown were having just as many meetings as before. Their canceled external meetings had simply been replaced by internal meetings—with more frequent town halls and touch-bases meant to keep colleagues connected during a distinctly disorienting time.
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But working together doesn’t have to mean meeting together, as Chait reminds us. At the very least, it doesn’t have to mean seeing one another. Just like the meeting in the conference room that could have been an email, your colleagues can easily get worn out by video meetings that could have been a phone call.
Video is great when reading people is important or when the purpose of your call is fostering connection. But if you’re just going over deadlines with a direct report or kicking around ideas for a project with a colleague, consider an old-fashioned voice call, at least once in awhile.
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Quartz Obsession — Videoconferencing — Card 5
1878: George du Maurier publishes a cartoon in Punch magazine of the “telephonoscope,” a fictional invention from Thomas Edison that transmits images along with sound.
1964: Bell Labs debuts the Picturephone, which requires that both parties make advance reservations, travel to one of the nation’s few designated Picturephone booths, and remain motionless for the duration of the call.
1993: The first “webcam” makes its public debut; it’s used to monitor a coffee pot at the University of Cambridge.
2006: Skype (short for “sky peer to peer”) adds videoconferencing.
2010: FaceTime emerges from an Apple gaming social network.
2019: Zoom prices its IPO at $36 a share. The stock, er, zoomed up 72% upon its market debut, and on June 15, 2020, it ended the trading day at $239.02.
2020: Zoom admits it censored video calls at the request of Chinese regulators, who flagged their concerns with online commemorations of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. (The censored meetings involved users in China, where people are banned from holding vigils or referring to the massacre online.)
??: Hologram meetings take over, thanks to virtual reality headsets.
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Quartz Obsession — Videoconferencing — Card 6
George du Maurier’s fictional telephonoscope, according to David Goran at The Vintage News, included “Long paper funnels to the ends of which were connected flexible tubes for insertion into the listener’s ears.” Add an unobtrusive microphone somewhere, maybe throw in some Bluetooth functionality, and that’s not too far from our current reality.
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Quartz Obsession — Videoconferencing — Card 7
Videoconferencing isn’t just for work—just about everything in our lives moved to a Brady-Bunch type format in record speed. When NBC’s late-night comedy show Saturday Night Live announced it would be coming to your living room from their living rooms, viewers were intrigued.
But did it work? The second “At Home” episode may have been a little more organized, but fewer people tuned in. Take a gander at the first attempt, starting with the monologue from host and Covid-19 “celebrity canary in a coal mine” Tom Hanks.
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Quartz Obsession — Videoconferencing — Card 9
It is entirely possible to hold a good remote meeting. In this Quartz at Work (from home) workshop, a panel of experts will help you to avoid common pitfalls, present authentically, and increase everyone’s engagement on screen.
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Quartz Obsession — Videoconferencing — Card 10
Or maybe you’ve leaned way in and can’t imagine a life of commuting in real pants anymore. We’ve put together a lot of resources to help Quartz members get their minds around what work will look like in the near future.
- Will hastily reconfigured offices be safe?
- Will fancy perks still exist?
- What’s up with elevator tickets?
- Who’s even going to want to go back to an office?
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