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(NPR)   Has the end come for the conference call?   (npr.org) divider line 37
    More: Scary  
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11992 clicks; posted to Main » on 04 Jun 2014 at 1:52 AM (29 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-06-03 11:49:27 PM  
14 votes:
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.
2014-06-04 02:41:30 AM  
7 votes:
So, why hasn't some tech startup fixed this?

We have. Multiple times. In a myriad of different ways. With all kinds of exciting new technologies. Plain text communications that can reach multiple destinations. Rich text! Moving pictures with audio. Real time text based chats. Interactive forums. And on. And on.

Yet the fax machine still survives to this day. And the conference call. And Windows XP. Because your buttfarking company decided that it would cost too much time/effort/resources/thought to get with the cock sucking times. Then they'd have to hire someone to tell them what to do. Then they'd have to actually listen and do it. And you know, work is like, hard and stuff.
2014-06-04 02:44:28 AM  
5 votes:
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 reporting.
2014-06-04 12:26:16 AM  
4 votes:
*checks Outlook calendar*

Nope.  It's not the end of the conference call anytime soon.
2014-06-04 05:53:32 AM  
2 votes:

AngryDragon: I see NPR is approaching CNN levels of "journalism"


NPR only mentions tweets. CNN would have based their whole story on tweets. They would have set up a conference tweet with a bevy of celebritards all twittering and tweeting away in the twitterverse while the CNN "news" staff all circle-jerked their way to a tweeterful twittergasm.
2014-06-04 04:53:55 AM  
2 votes:
Socially meeting on TeamSpeak/Ventrillo/Mumble/Whatever is miles more convenient than this pager-era business tech. The amount of stuff 2-20 people can get done on basic social software with push to talk and a good headset is amazing.
2014-06-04 03:35:00 AM  
2 votes:
We use Jabber (Cisco) -- it's fine, I think the secret isn't the tech so much as  A) decent , scratch that, high-quality omni-directional microphones* (the kind found on teleconferencing speakerphones) and B) People who mute their mics when not contributing. Also an honorary mention if your meeting room has those foam sound baffle-thingys in a few places on the walls. Echos are the DEBBIL. No, seriously. Hang tapestries or something soft. A room with painted walls or whiteboards is the worst place to understand conversations. Yet all meeting rooms are like that.

*Occasionally I "virtually" meet the same people with FaceTime and BOY HOWDY do iPhone microphones suck at being omni-directional microphones. They work for personal phonecalls only.
2014-06-04 03:22:30 AM  
2 votes:
The biggest problem with conference calls?

media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com
2014-06-04 02:50:15 AM  
2 votes:

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.


It's been my experience that there's always a couple of guys in every company that have a problem connecting their conference call, or have a problem with their email, or their lap-top gets fried, or whatever.  I don't know if they think that these problems are common to everyone...or if they ever consider are aware that it is they who are the common denominator.
2014-06-04 02:35:32 AM  
2 votes:

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
2014-06-04 02:07:24 AM  
2 votes:
If the headline has a question mark in it, the answer is probably NO.
2014-06-04 01:59:17 AM  
2 votes:
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.
2014-06-04 12:09:24 AM  
2 votes:
No, shut up idiot. Conference calls are easy - it sounds like you and your colleagues are just dumb.
2014-06-04 12:03:14 AM  
2 votes:
Oh, man, I hope so. I HATE conference calls!
2014-06-04 12:00:50 AM  
2 votes:

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.

No one ever had those problems listed.
2014-06-04 03:33:06 PM  
1 votes:
Conference calls are great when you really don't have to participate much.

1. Shut office door

2. Put phone on mute

3. Do the Conference Call Dance

24.media.tumblr.com
2014-06-04 12:36:13 PM  
1 votes:
I used to have a monthly conference call. The service was awful. The first 10 minutes of every call was:

"Ok, we're going to get.."

"John.....has just joined the call"

"Ok, let's get..."

"Bob......has just joined the call"

"Alright everyone..."

"Jenny.....has just joined the call"

This continues for a few minutes.

Then: "Ok, can we take roll call?"

Me: Faceplam
2014-06-04 11:39:15 AM  
1 votes:
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 11:08:57 AM  
1 votes:
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 10:55:02 AM  
1 votes:
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 10:41:31 AM  
1 votes:

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 10:29:00 AM  
1 votes:
The NSA would like to remind you that every call is a conference call.
2014-06-04 10:14:46 AM  
1 votes:
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 10:00:20 AM  
1 votes:

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 09:33:15 AM  
1 votes:
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 08:57:39 AM  
1 votes:
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 08:17:29 AM  
1 votes:
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 07:52:09 AM  
1 votes:
"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 07:02:21 AM  
1 votes:

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 06:22:31 AM  
1 votes:
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.
2014-06-04 06:02:03 AM  
1 votes:
In the future, the telescreens will be smaller.
www.ditl.org
2014-06-04 06:02:01 AM  
1 votes:
The technology really hasn't been a problem for a very long time. I've worked at companies where we used MSN to do it and it worked just fine. You can do it with Skype too.

The real problem is that conference calls are pointless for nearly all participants. I used to sit in a daily meeting of a retail company and almost every day, I would deliver current stats on Intranet performance, say it was all working fine etc. One day I said to the boss "how about I email you with the stats unless there's a problem". "No, you have to be there". Then I'd sit listening to a load of stuff that I had nothing to do with like the branch network outages and discussions between the retail software and hardware guys.

I want as few people as possible in my meetings/calls. If I think I might need a developer, I'll tell him to work, but I'll patch him in if we need him for something. Even then, I try to get the information about his stuff that I think I might need for the call so I don't have to.
2014-06-04 03:57:52 AM  
1 votes:

mr lawson: My headphone...let me show it to you


Personally I use one of these:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002LARY0Q/

Which I like because it's simultaneously connected via analog wires to my desk phone, USB to my computer, and Bluetooth to my cell, so I can use it for everything and never muck with the settings. If it weren't priced like office equipment I'd have one everywhere I used the phone.
2014-06-04 03:36:33 AM  
1 votes:
Webex Enterprise works great and does not require a call-in PIN - you click the meeting link and the system calls you instead, or you can use your computer for audio. We use it to record screen sharing meetings as well. It even puts a little widget on your screen that says "so and so is talking" so you can easily find out who forgot to put the phone on mute before they went to the restroom. Fun stuff.
2014-06-04 02:14:08 AM  
1 votes:
dilbert.com
2014-06-04 02:06:57 AM  
1 votes:
This article was written by the pointy-haired boss in Dilbert.

/can't figure out Skype either
2014-06-04 01:56:01 AM  
1 votes:
Gawd, I hope so.  Every week, I have a "team meeting" confrence call with everybody who works for the same boss - in over half a dozen states.  And most of the participants are old men in their 60s and 70s.  With all the rambling that implies.  We're all computer field engineers, and I'm surprised that some of these guys can even correctly identify their car keys, much less understand how to use them ;)
 
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