Last week Slashdot had a post that was right up our alley: “Building the case for telecommuting.” Not only does VSee build a video collaboration tool that allows telecommuters and distributed teams to work together as though they are face-to-face, we are also practicing telecommuters (almost everyone works from home) and regular users of our own product. With 25+ people spread across the U.S. East and West Coast, Europe, and Singapore, these are some things we’ve learned over the years:
The NSA (National Security Agency) is the premier agency responsible for protecting government communications. Their traditional approach is using proprietary hardware and software, that is secure but very expensive.
Recently, they have been working on a plan to use ready-made commercial standards and equipment for their secure technology needs, instead of reinventing the wheel in their own labs. The idea hasn’t quite worked out as expected, which you can read about in this article, but it has lead to the development of the “Fishbowl.” These are souped-up, super-secure Android smartphones, that NSA agents can feel safe using to send even the most sensitive information. Information sent through these handsets are double-encrypted as well as screened through NSA servers. Please see our security article on why securing real-time communication is hard.
Just in case the last couple posts by Milton seem a little bleak or down on using video, I thought I’d briefly chime in and remind our readers that this is the creator of VSee talking, and that he is actually very pro-video! That being said, it’s good to look at the details and not throw any babies out with the bathwater.
Let’s look at trust as discussed in the last post. I’ve mentioned in multiple posts that video is as good at maintaining trust levels as a face-to-face conversation. Bos, Gergle, Olson and Olson (2001); also Bos, Gergle, Olson, Olson and Wright (2002); and other studies (mostly including a Bos or Olson), have shown that video does indeed approach face-to-face for levels of trust. Assuming their findings are correct, why does this appear at odds with Milton’s assertions in the last post?
First Impressions. It turns out they are not at odds at all. Milton started the discussion with first impressions, which Continue reading
A voice without the face is still the same person…right?
Given that humans are highly visual creatures, and that a disproportionately large portion of the brain is devoted to processing images (Wolfe, 2001), it seems to make sense that including video in virtual conferences could dramatically improve communication between people. Interestingly enough, not all studies support this idea (Inkpen, Hegde, Czerwinkski & Zhang, 2010) and in many work situations, people often prefer going without video (Hirsh & Brokopp, 2005). Why this should be the case is a discussion we’ll have to save for later. For now, we want to look at the reported benefits of including video.
According to a 2010 study of 3-way discussions via computer conferencing, participants perceived significant differences in discussions they had with and without video–with the majority of participants giving “with video” a big thumbs up (Inkpen et al). Bear in mind that this means they had simultaneous video of the other two members of their discussion group, not just one person at a time, (some of the aforementioned studies of videoconferencing were set up so that meeting members only saw the presenting speaker, aka voice activated switching with is used by Microsoft Office Communicator and most hardware room systems such as Polycom and Tandberg). So this is what participants had to say about the benefits of including video versus audio alone:
1. “With video [it was] easier to stay engaged and track the conversation.” (97)
Save brain power to focus on *what* is being said instead of who’s saying it.
2. “Having eye-contact and seeing other people’s emotions made a huge difference and enhanced the conversation” (97)
Building rapport through eye-contact has always been an important point, beginning with ancient Greek and Roman oratory.
3. “Felt accountable for joining in” (97)
Make sure others are throwing their weight.
4. “No video…[i]t’s easier to think that pauses in the conversation mean you are not being paid attention to or that someone disagrees” (98)
Prevent avoidable misunderstandings and conflicts (which saves time and emotional energy).
5. “But I must admit that I had no email or web distractions.” (97)
Know that you’ve got the listener’s attention.
So a voice without a face just isn’t the same person–it’s less of the same person. A face can be a significant source of information for better communication.
Inkpen, K., Hegde, R., Czerwinski, M., Zhang, Z. (2010). Exploring spatialized audio & video for distributed conversations. Proceedings of CSCW 2010, Savannah, Georgia, 95-98.
Kirk, D., Sellen, A., Cao, X. (2010). Home video communication: mediating ‘closeness’. Proceedings of CSCW 2010, Savannah, Georgia, 135-144.
Wolfe, P. (2001). Brain Matters: Translating Research Into Classroom Practice. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).
That headline really means audio-only phone calls. The (“smart”)phone as the swiss army knife of communications tools will never die. LONG LIVE THE PHONE!
May I present the evidence? I call to the stand this blog post by Larry Lisser, titled All I wanted for my birthday was a lousy phone call.
Despite having three phone numbers plus Skype (what? no mention of VSee, Larry?), as well as phones themselves, and lots of friends and family, he received only one, 1, phone call…from his 73 year-old father on a cell phone. Here’s what he got instead:
14 Skype IM’s
2 BlackBerry Messengers pings
1 BlackBerry Pinning ping
8 Facebook Wall writings and messages Continue reading