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(NPR)   Has the end come for the conference call?   (npr.org) divider line 125
    More: Scary  
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11975 clicks; posted to Main » on 04 Jun 2014 at 1:52 AM (17 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-06-04 06:32:51 AM

mr lawson: Harry_Seldon: Not that using a computer as a phone is a bad idea

it is my only phone now.
Sooooo happy to get rid of the cell phone.
leave a message and i'll get back to you....maybe.

My headphone...let me show it to you


I use the regular phone version of that one.

As for the phone itself, they'll take my big ugly black avaya 8410d from my cold, dead hands - it actually has both a good, sufficiently loud speakerphone speaker AND a sufficiently quality microphone - even the identical 8410d's from the same lot don't match it. Even the damn polycoms in the conference rooms don't match it.
 
2014-06-04 06:51:04 AM
Considering multimillion dollar businesses still use fax machines, I'm gonna mark that as "no."
 
2014-06-04 07:01:55 AM
Has the end come for the conference call?

Is it over? Do we hang up now? Anybody there? Am I the last one on the line? Hellooooooooo?
 
2014-06-04 07:02:21 AM

HawgWild: Oh, man, I hope so. I HATE conference calls!


I prefer them over face-to-face meetings. At then least I can mute them and do other things when the call inevitably goes off the rails. STAY ON TOPIC YOU ASSHOLES!
 
2014-06-04 07:22:13 AM

verbaltoxin: Considering multimillion dollar businesses still use fax machines VAXes, I'm gonna mark that as "no."


FTFY

/They still run like a champ, as long as you can find parts & your techs have not died of old age
 
2014-06-04 07:22:39 AM

Harry_Seldon: We use Microsoft Lync. Works great. I talk to people all over the world with clarity of talking to someone next door. Everyone has a USB headset. We can talk 1:1 or conference calls, share chat session, screens, and documents. It works nearly flawless.


I'm not the biggest Microsoft fan but Lync does work really well even without a headset.

Tho on one call my dog decided to wake up and start woofing at some invisible critter outside.
 
2014-06-04 07:26:26 AM
Done in one.
 
2014-06-04 07:29:40 AM

bbcard1: We do a fair number of conference calls here.  The reason people do them at their desk is to that they can "multitask" which means being non-productive at more than one thing at a time.

Favorite conference call moment from a female colleague in the advertising industry...

During the idle chit chat while you are waiting for everyone in three offices to get on the line, a guy starts talking about his recent vacation to the Grand Canyon and how much fun he had.  My friend says:

"One time I went down on a donkey."

Everyone in all three offices erupted in laughter. Took her quite a while to live that one down.


How many millions did she win a sexual harassment lawsuit?
 
2014-06-04 07:52:09 AM
"Who just joined?"
Silence
"Who just joined?"
Silence
"I thought I heard a beep, did someone just join"
Silence
"Who was the last join please"
-"durr sorry my mute was on"

Both of these people kill me, every week...
 
2014-06-04 08:07:53 AM

mr_a: I used to work for a Japanese company. Conference calls with headquarters often consisted of 6 Americans sitting around answering emails while the speakerphone spewed out thousands of words per minute of Japanese.

It always felt like I had tuned in the wrong channel on cable TV.


I used to have conference calls to my Japanese head office too, but usually the Americans were home on their couch drinking their 3rd beer of the night and we spent huge amounts of time trying to get the Japanese guys to understand our point and commit to action.  Instead they would just say "yes yes yes" which meant "Yes I understand" and not "Yes I agree to do that".

The subtleties of a mistranslation that "Hai" = "yes" was the bane of my existence.
 
2014-06-04 08:08:46 AM
I think telemarketers trying to sell conference call equipment are confused by my office.

Phrases like "When we do a conference call, we all stand around a speaker phone in the president's office and speak loudly into it as our turn comes up" tend to confuse their ticker tape playback hardware
 
2014-06-04 08:09:27 AM
I'll just leave this here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYu_bGbZiiQ

Pretty much describes the teleconferences I've been on.
 
2014-06-04 08:10:32 AM
I'll be brief, I have a conference call in 26 minutes.

The author is right.  Every time you get into a conference call you miss out on quality FACETIME.  It's like a horrible trap you can't eSKYPE from.  Each time I get told to GOTOaMEETING I think "man, someone should invent some kind of conference system using video!"
 
2014-06-04 08:16:46 AM

mike_d85: I'll be brief, I have a conference call in 26 minutes.

The author is right.  Every time you get into a conference call you miss out on quality FACETIME.  It's like a horrible trap you can't eSKYPE from.  Each time I get told to GOTOaMEETING I think "man, someone should invent some kind of conference system using video!"


Not everyone is as high falutin as a big enough company that can afford to give all of their traveling people who are sitting using free wi-fi for a conference call, webcams for a web conference.  And, not everyone on the conference call has pulled off at an exit instead of driving at 70 miles an hour while on speaker phone.
 
2014-06-04 08:17:24 AM

profplump: Harry_Seldon: Everyone has a USB headset.

Headsets would help a lot even on traditional calls. Even dedicated speaker phones are pretty bad in terms of audio quality and generally speaking cell phone/desk phone speakerphones are downright terrible. A $15 headset for all participants would solve those problems, but for some reason it's only available to people using their computer as a phone.

/ Not that using a computer as a phone is a bad idea


About a year or so ago, my company replaced all of its phones with Cisco "softphones" and USB headsets.  The headsets aren't bad, but a lot of folks in my department prefer to use Lync for making calls when they can because the Cisco software is just terrible.  Aside from the call-quality problems, the UI is literally a phone on your desktop - you even have to click the number buttons with the mouse, because it was apparently too much trouble for them to design the thing to accept keyboard input.  Plus, the softphone decided to to take over my IIS server, blocking any other sites I have set up, so I have to disable it any time I'm doing development or testing of our server software.

Ask anybody at the office, and they would tell you that they want their old desk phone back.  On the rare occasion I need to make a call, I'll usually either use the phone in a conference room or just call on my cell phone.

Back to the topic at hand... our dev team is spread out all over the world, and our department has a fairly generous work-from-home policy.  So we make frequent use of WebEx, and we have at least one room per floor equipped with a video-conference system.  I doubt those are going away anytime soon.
 
2014-06-04 08:17:29 AM
Conference calls are going nowhere.

Want to have a conference between multiple entities?  Whose web-based conferencing do you use?  What if one of the participants has a computer with restrictive group policies and can't install the plugin for the system you chose?

What if you have one of those sales people (all of them) who always schedule their "phone" meetings for the time they're driving between client locations?

There's a reason phone calls and fax machines still exist.  As cumbersome as the experience of using them can be, they're still the easy answer.  Everyone's phone can connect to everyone elses and you can easily verify a fax was received or not.  Someone should solve the problem, but instant messaging and Google Hangouts will never replace conference calls in their current form.
 
2014-06-04 08:17:56 AM

Crass and Jaded Mother Farker: My company is considering using Google hangouts for our conference call needs.

But the bosses are against it.

They've seen the TV commercials and they think having to invite the Muppets will reduce productivity.


Kermit said the same thing.
 
2014-06-04 08:26:05 AM

cwolf20: mike_d85: I'll be brief, I have a conference call in 26 minutes.

The author is right.  Every time you get into a conference call you miss out on quality FACETIME.  It's like a horrible trap you can't eSKYPE from.  Each time I get told to GOTOaMEETING I think "man, someone should invent some kind of conference system using video!"

Not everyone is as high falutin as a big enough company that can afford to give all of their traveling people who are sitting using free wi-fi for a conference call, webcams for a web conference.  And, not everyone on the conference call has pulled off at an exit instead of driving at 70 miles an hour while on speaker phone.


In the age of smartphones, I don't really buy that.  I've seen people using facetime on their iphones while driving.  To clarify, this is a terrible idea that is remarkably likely to kill you.

Also, if you use blue tooth you can be part of the conference, but just put the phone down.

/my meeting was cancelled
 
2014-06-04 08:31:48 AM
But how will savvy investors keep up with the company's future plans?
 
2014-06-04 08:33:17 AM

Day_Old_Dutchie: I'll just leave this here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYu_bGbZiiQ

Pretty much describes the teleconferences I've been on.


Was going to post this link if no one else did.  Spot on.
 
2014-06-04 08:34:48 AM

Harry_Seldon: We use Microsoft Lync. Works great. I talk to people all over the world with clarity of talking to someone next door. Everyone has a USB headset. We can talk 1:1 or conference calls, share chat session, screens, and documents. It works nearly flawless.


We recently rolled out Lync and it is a vast improvement over Microsoft Communicator, but it still has its quirks.  My biggest qualm to date is the necessity to reconfigure the audio settings when I'm sitting at my desk with a headset/mic to sitting in a conference room using the built in mic/speakers to working from home over the VPN using a regular stereo headset and the built in mic.  I'm pretty sure (as with all things here) it isn't Lync itself, but our policy settings that are trying to be overly helpful.

The newest thing is that the Lync volume control is no longer tied to either the system volume or headphone volume, so you've got to go into the OS audio manager or mixer and find the "Lync" audio to boost the volume.

And holy CRAP getting a new employee set up correctly was a pain in the ass.  But then like I said, we as a company are incapable of using ANY vendor solution as designed.  We MUST customize it! I swear our IT department (of which I am a part) needs therapy.
 
kab
2014-06-04 08:53:49 AM
On the Internet, we are used to our communications being clearly heralded.

Leethax69 has joined the conference
 
2014-06-04 08:57:39 AM
I work for a smaller firm. We've invested money into making sure we can conduct meetings in any way possible. We've got 50' monitors connected to several cameras, multiple microphones, all of which can easily connect to Skype, GoToMeeting, Google Hangout, Webex, anything. It was set up with simple controls so that anyone can use it. All you have to do is select your setup from the onscreen menu and boom, everything is configured correctly.

But almost every company we work with thinks it's the GD 1980s. Upgrading past two cans and a string just isn't in the budget. I'm on a crusade to destroy the fax machine and it just ... won't ... die. Then there are the clients who make tons of money and have nice setups in their conference rooms. The problem there is that only one guy knows how to sometimes make it work and he's out today.
 
2014-06-04 08:58:20 AM

pjkraatz: mikefinch: Nope -- once a month I sit there on the phone marvelling at how more than half of my co-workers managed to dress and feed themselves up to this point.

\We should post the numbers and times for our calls and just crash them all for each other...

I have to do roughly 5 calls a DAY like this (minimum). I was hoping TFA would give me a sign that the end is nigh but no, only the sweet release of death will free me from this hell. The stories, though...oh man, I've heard it all.

I may steal that idea for a call or two on 4/1/15. Could I press on a few dozen Farkers to perhaps bomb a call? Might be worth a beer at a San Diego County Fark party. And a recording. Gotta have the recording.

The lulz. Do it for them.

/PM me if interested


When I'm on a huge conference call I have a really bad habit of getting bored and relieving the boredom by crinkling cellophane into the mouthpiece. But only when people speak.

My record is getting one manager hang up and call back three times to 'reset' his connection.
 
2014-06-04 09:05:55 AM
Just because people are tech stupid doesn't mean it's going away.
 
2014-06-04 09:06:50 AM

HawgWild: Oh, man, I hope so. I HATE conference calls!


Well, enjoy travelling around the country every time you need to have a meeting then.

Rarely have problems on any conference call. They save a TON of time and money. Sometimes the wrong code gets entered. Big deal.

/have to drive 3 hours to a meeting that should have been a conference call today
//bitter
 
2014-06-04 09:10:01 AM
The mouth breatehr....good lord. It's like haveing a perverted Darth Vadar on the line. the only good thing about a conference call is you can mute and ask your co worker "What the fark is Barry going on about now? Lord this man is an idoit".


Of course there's been time were  we didn't have the mute button on and well sometimes things get said out loud that shouldn't have been said. "Did you ever see the tit's on barry' admin?....oh yea at " all the while wondering why my collegues across the table are waving thier arms wildly while the admin dives for the mute button and the intern laughs hystericly.

I miss that job.
 
2014-06-04 09:17:13 AM
Why would you want / need facetime (etc) for a conference call?

Seems annoying

upload.wikimedia.org
 
2014-06-04 09:31:32 AM

Pocket Ninja: It's possible that you and the people you work with are halfwits.


Over in one. But I guess the younger folk just don't have enough to whine about, so we can excuse this little ill-informed rant.
 
2014-06-04 09:32:59 AM

relaxitsjustme: TFA reads like a half dozen press releases copy and pasted together.


Just about to post that. Slack must have a PR pro.
 
2014-06-04 09:33:15 AM
Short answer to FTA's question: no. Long answer? Not until Puppeteer-style stepping discs make it big time, and we can all conveniently meet in person.

/uses Cisco WebEx three times a week. Never had a single technical issue.
 
2014-06-04 09:37:54 AM
I work with some incredibly smart people, but it's amazing how the first 15-20 minutes of every Google Hangout are spent on teaching the participants how to Internet.

(CW IMs me) "Where is the hangout, can you invite me?"
(I IM back) "Look in your calendar, there's a link there."
(CW) "I can't find it, can you invite me?"
(I invite him)
(CW connects, then drops)
(CW IMs me) "It didn't work, can you invite me again?"
(other CW, in Hangout) "Check it out, I can make it give me a funny hat!"
 
2014-06-04 10:00:20 AM

Pocket Ninja: Every day, at 6:30 a.m., I join a conference call with colleagues on the East Coast. I call an 800 number, then enter a six-digit conference room number, then a PIN. And despite the group remaining largely unchanged, once a week, something goes wrong. When I conference with outsiders, there's a problem every other call. There's the "oops I got the wrong dial-in" problem. There's the "PIN is too long to remember" problem. There's the "is so-and-so on the line?" problem. And the "someone hasn't muted the line and is a mouth breather" problem.

It's possible that you and the people you work with are halfwits.


Yep.

The author sounds like someone who has never actually worked in corporate America though. There are plenty of solutions for knowing who is on the call, etc. Additionally, on Android at least, you can just tap the number with pin/code and it will dial in and automatically enter the pin for you. All of the "problems" discussed have already been solved.

Problem is, tech illiterate morons don't always use the solutions.
 
2014-06-04 10:06:07 AM

Harry_Seldon: We use Microsoft Lync. Works great. I talk to people all over the world with clarity of talking to someone next door. Everyone has a USB headset. We can talk 1:1 or conference calls, share chat session, screens, and documents. It works nearly flawless.


Yup. Same here. The problem has been solved.
 
2014-06-04 10:11:15 AM

eeyore102: I work with some incredibly smart people, but it's amazing how the first 15-20 minutes of every Google Hangout are spent on teaching the participants how to Internet.

(CW IMs me) "Where is the hangout, can you invite me?"
(I IM back) "Look in your calendar, there's a link there."
(CW) "I can't find it, can you invite me?"
(I invite him)
(CW connects, then drops)
(CW IMs me) "It didn't work, can you invite me again?"
(other CW, in Hangout) "Check it out, I can make it give me a funny hat!"


What kind of hat?  Can a monocle be inserted?  Possibly a mustache?
 
2014-06-04 10:14:46 AM
bionicjoe: "Please explain why we need 10-digit PINs for every damn call?"

Insurance. Once upon a time a third party stumbled into the wrong conference call and heard Something Important That No-One Was Supposed To Know. The company was then sued six ways to Sunday for being so inept as to blindly re-use conference lines with effectively no security to ensure that only intended attendees are on the line. Insurer's can't be seen ignoring risk, so they let you choose to pay higher rates, or roll out a security policy that includes a PIN on every conference call.
 
2014-06-04 10:15:35 AM

Persnickety: Day_Old_Dutchie: I'll just leave this here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYu_bGbZiiQ

Pretty much describes the teleconferences I've been on.

Was going to post this link if no one else did.  Spot on.


are there dogs barking and a dude on mute?  surprised "real life" took so long to appear...
 
2014-06-04 10:17:23 AM

ChewbaccaJones: The bigger the company, the more flaccid the grasp on new technology.

We have had teleconferencing, Lync, IM, Skype, GoToMeeting, etc., etc. for years.
Our company has invested in the latest tech services to have one-touch teleconferencing and point-to-point video meeting tech going on at least 5 years now.
We have several VERY nice conference rooms outfitted with 60"+ HDTVs for such meetings.
We have cameras that track motion for multiple speakers in teleconferencing calls
We have killer speakers in the ceiling and the industry's best polycoms for crystal-clear meetings across 4 states, 2 countries.

yet 99% of our meetings are conducted via people using their own cell phones or cubicle's phones and they never enable their cameras.

It is not because the tech is not available or even promoted...it is because the employees don't want to embrace new technology.
...actually, let me correct that:  it is because ALL the employees don't want to embrace the new tech simultaneously.

There could be IT driving innovation; yet because it would take an extra 5 minutes to learn the new technology, people from marketing or finance will say "let's just setup a conference call" OR "let's just get together in a room".

The IT people and the Marketing people may say "lets setup a teleconference"...but the technological lowest common denominator will ALWAYS win because they will eat up half the meeting complaining they can't get on.

I could easily telecommute to work...yet I drive my ass in EVERY DAY because of antiquated notions of "We have always done it this way, so we will keep on doing it this way."

It is friggin aggravating.  But at the end of the day, it is one of the lower-ranking items on the list of annoyances related to co-workers resorting to the "That's just how we do it."

You wanna see really annoying?  Watch a great company invest heavily in cutting edge BI technology just to watch them copy and paste from Access databases into 1000 excel files to do their reporti ...


Okay... I'm like 96% sure we are coworkers after reading that...
 
2014-06-04 10:17:38 AM
In some ways, the conference call, for all its foibles, is a miracle in interoperability. It's like if you could send a message to an email address, a Twitter user, a Facebook account, and a MySpace page all with the same tool.

Is it just me, or does that not seem nearly as miraculous as I think the author was going for?
 
2014-06-04 10:28:31 AM

orbister: Harry_Seldon: We use Microsoft Lync. Works great. I talk to people all over the world with clarity of talking to someone next door. Everyone has a USB headset. We can talk 1:1 or conference calls, share chat session, screens, and documents. It works nearly flawless.

Yup. Same here. The problem has been solved.


I agree. Lync is a great tool. Those of us who used to have to jump on an airplane and fly someplace for a three hour meeting once per month appreciate that we can now cover the same ground with a weekly one-hour con-call. Technology has reduced the amount I have to travel by at least 80%.
 
2014-06-04 10:29:00 AM
The NSA would like to remind you that every call is a conference call.
 
2014-06-04 10:41:23 AM
Ever have someone put you on hold, instead of mute? Everyone gets to listen to elevator music while you desperately try to figure out who it is and contact them.
 
2014-06-04 10:41:31 AM

Ambivalence: Pocket Ninja: It's possible that you and the people you work with are halfwits.

I think this is very likely.  I used to have to dial into a team lead meeting every week from home (because they always seemed to happen on my days off) and I would sit there with the phone muted playing video games through it.


When we would have late coference calls to accomodate our west coast offices I would usually take them from home and like you on mute playing video games, kinda listening to something that 95% of didnt have anything to do with me.

ampoliros: But almost every company we work with thinks it's the GD 1980s. Upgrading past two cans and a string just isn't in the budget. I'm on a crusade to destroy the fax machine and it just ... won't ... die. Then there are the clients who make tons of money and have nice setups in their conference rooms. The problem there is that only one guy knows how to sometimes make it work and he's out today.

Im trying to kill the last two fax machines at my office, but some of the old timers cling to them til death. I dont think they understand that they can get a fax to their email or through one of those evil copiers with all the ligths and buttons that scare them so much.
 
2014-06-04 10:44:43 AM

groppet: Ambivalence: Pocket Ninja: It's possible that you and the people you work with are halfwits.

I think this is very likely.  I used to have to dial into a team lead meeting every week from home (because they always seemed to happen on my days off) and I would sit there with the phone muted playing video games through it.

When we would have late coference calls to accomodate our west coast offices I would usually take them from home and like you on mute playing video games, kinda listening to something that 95% of didnt have anything to do with me.

ampoliros: But almost every company we work with thinks it's the GD 1980s. Upgrading past two cans and a string just isn't in the budget. I'm on a crusade to destroy the fax machine and it just ... won't ... die. Then there are the clients who make tons of money and have nice setups in their conference rooms. The problem there is that only one guy knows how to sometimes make it work and he's out today.

Im trying to kill the last two fax machines at my office, but some of the old timers cling to them til death. I dont think they understand that they can get a fax to their email or through one of those evil copiers with all the ligths and buttons that scare them so much.


Those copiers can be evil on occasion. Some genius sent an AST design to every US employee (>10k) once. Naturally several hundred people hit reply all...

/the only one that was worth it: "Is this an Aggie joke?"
 
2014-06-04 10:55:02 AM
Again, in a bigger enterprise, Lync (or occasional reversions to Skype/Google Hangouts) is really solving it for us.  If you have a group of people under 45 who grew up in AIM/IRC/ICQ/etc, though, we'd rather just use the text chat over the whole voices/faces crap.  Plus, you can refer back to the text chat session and see what you actually promised.

In any event, we're supposedly mapping all phone numbers into Lync over the next year and killing desktop phones and yanking POTS wires entirely.  We'll see how that goes.
 
2014-06-04 11:08:57 AM
Another vote for Lync. Works flawlessly for conf calls, audio, video, screen sharing you name it.
However I was in a call last week and this one guy's dog was in heat. That one was fun.
 
2014-06-04 11:21:00 AM

ChewbaccaJones: The bigger the company, the more flaccid the grasp on new technology.


Forget being a luddite, most conference calls are a waste of time and all converting them to teleconferences would do is make it clear that I'm doing something else while management pats themselves on the back.
 
2014-06-04 11:39:15 AM
Please say yes. Every day time I go on one for work, there is some schmuck taking it from their car without muting their line and not listening close enough to know they're getting yelled at for not muting their line.

Besides, 90% of the stuff on calls I have to participate on is for people one or two steps up the food chain from me. Drives me to boredom.
 
2014-06-04 11:47:37 AM

Pocket Ninja: Every day, at 6:30 a.m., I join a conference call with colleagues on the East Coast. I call an 800 number, then enter a six-digit conference room number, then a PIN. And despite the group remaining largely unchanged, once a week, something goes wrong. When I conference with outsiders, there's a problem every other call. There's the "oops I got the wrong dial-in" problem. There's the "PIN is too long to remember" problem. There's the "is so-and-so on the line?" problem. And the "someone hasn't muted the line and is a mouth breather" problem.

It's possible that you and the people you work with are halfwits.


Yeah, the only problems I have are occasionally fat fingering the number or pin. One min tops to resolve. Take roll call for the invited people and ask who joined on beeps and you solve the "is so and so on" problem. PIN doesn't need to be remembered: people either read it off their screen or they dial it automatically if they have an Android. Muting can be a problem, but that's another two-second fix, and relatively rare. The biggest issues are people with bad connections and people talking over each other, but both are usually manageable. Anyway, yeah, this person works with halfwits and may be one themselves.
 
2014-06-04 12:23:10 PM
Heh, at my tech company, they don't embrace the whole "reduce variation" mantra at all. Our collaboration tools we use regularly include:

Direct VTC
Direct VTC + speakerphone (in one or more VTC sites for extra distortion and feedback)
Phone bridge
H323 MCU VTC + integrated phone bridge (this would work the best, except there's no text chat and no one installs the right VTC client)
Cisco Jabber
Polycom Realpresence (the "standard" VTC desktop / mobile client, but of course the one that either dies or disconnects someone else when they join the MCU and force a codec renegotiation)
Skype
Webex
Lync
Bluejeans
Trello
Campfire
Hangouts
Facetime
Jira / Confluence
Fisheye
CA Service Desk
HP Service Manager
IRC (yes we still have a server we use for certain legacy deploys)
Realtime Email threads
The occasional high priority SMS

A lot of time we're in the middle of a few different groups relaying info between the different mediums.

What hurts the most is that I used to work for a company doing information convergence and a lot of the work would be doing the tech checks before conferences started so the event would go smoothly.
 
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