This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
We all stumble talking to people around us.
The greatest boon to my job has been using web conferencing software to do tech support. You verbally try and get someone to follow directions without any feedback that they are following your directions and sit com episodes are created. Talk them into joining a web conference and have them lead it and suddenly when you say go to the "Start Button" and they go to the other side of the screen, it is easy to gently say "I am sorry, i meant to tell you to go to the button in the lower left corner of your screen!"
But there is overhead in starting up a web conference. Not a lot, but enough that using language to try and solve the problem up front is still cheaper. But there is a policy and procedure snafu ready to be made.
And suddenly another level of language is created. Another set of meanings to words to have slide into the Oxford Tome. Another place for miscommunication to happen if we choose to try to misunderstand.
Web conferences suck. Am I just getting old or is communication becoming harder, the more technology we throw at it? When you end up with several phone numbers, email addresses, and people freaking out if you haven't responded to the latest Farcebook, Tweet, Whatsapp, SMS, or dozens of other mutually-incompatible attention-eaters within minutes. I have had a client from 9 time zones away demanding an explanation for my lack of response within 30 minutes (I was in bed of course).
Now with web conferencing, the two terrible things are the set-up time and the technology itself. There is inevitably at least 1 person who cannot get the thing working. It's usually at least 10 minutes before everyone has a semi-functional connection. Increasingly dial-in options are blocked to save money, so the new guy has to install, reboot and so on to get any audio. The software seems designed to create incompatibilities if it detects that a competitor application has been installed on the same machine (e.g. Webvomit will only work with Java 11.12.443b.jX SP1 while Skivemeeting will only work with Java 11.12.443c.jX SP1), which makes working with multiple clients (people, not computer) great fun.
And the call quality can be atrocious. Aside from the various random background noises, the clattering keyboard of the bored participant doing his email, it's the latency. Which means two people can be talking over each other for a good half-second without either of them realising it. Then negotiating a re-start without the body-language cues you get in a face to face meeting wastes more precious time.
Like meetings in general, the majotrity web meetings generally accomplish very little, and a small number accomplish a lot. In my line of work that's usually because a strong personality creates compromise between warring parties, presents decisions that have to be taken, and takes the cr@p from everyone with good humour. That's what my job boils down to - but it is far harder on the web than face to face.
I wish we could have fewer but higher quality meetings, rather than using this crap technology to cut the accounting cost, instead imposing the cost on the employees' time.
Where's the beer? That needs a toast.
or 10. .