This post originally appeared on the Team.Video blog.
Deeply ingrained in Zoom’s defaults are choices that do not encourage us to expect the best from each other. We spend such vast amounts of time in video meetings now that we should question what behaviors our platforms are driving us to, and how they affect our interactions with our friends, family, and colleagues at work.
“Waiting for the host to start the meeting”
This message can be infuriating. The host is on vacation, or they’re in a car somewhere, or they’re there but having trouble logging in. Or worse, everyone wonders, who is the host of this meeting, anyway? Is it me? Am I holding us back at this moment? For God’s sake, when will we be able to get on with the actual work we have to do?
And really, why can’t we just carry on without the host? Of course if you go into all the right admin screens and click all the right buttons, you can turn this off, but since it is the default, this experience inevitably creeps in.
May I please share my screen? Pretty please?
I have a thing on my screen that’s relevant to our discussion right now. Can I share my screen? Oh, well, no because someone else is sharing their screen, and for some reason now I have to find a moment to interject and ask them if they would stop so that I could share my thing. Or maybe it’s not worth all of that so I’ll just keep it to myself. Yes, there is a setting again somewhere that can undo this constraint, but defaults are rarely changed.
Could we please mute this person making a ruckus?
Try as we might to avoid it, we all at one point or another end up being this person making a ruckus. If the host happens to be mid-sentence making a brilliant point, the last thing anybody wants is to derail the meeting so they can pause and find the right little mute button to click. Shouldn’t we all just be able to do it?
And really, why shouldn’t it go the other way too — if we see someone is muted and obviously meaning to speak to the group, do we all really need to figure out who is noticing this and who is going to yell “you’re muted!” back at them? And then they have to apologize, and figure out what they need to repeat, etc, etc. More derailing. What if anyone could just unmute anyone else and we all just trust each other to do the right thing? That is the world I want to live in.
“The host has ended the call”
In my younger days, at the bar, I used to get offended when last-call would come, and they’d kick everyone out. Staff who had been friendly now changing course and telling everyone to please hurry up and GTFO.
These days, I can’t help but see the parallel experience in leaving a zoom call. I have to time my exit so that it’s after the meeting is sure to be wrapping up, but before I get kicked out by the host. Worst is when I’m reaching for that button to leave the call, but the host wins the race and I get booted before I can click. Every time, I think, “Yeah, well, I was already leaving…”
How about something different?
We built Team.Video over the last while with some of these frustrations in mind. Anyone can come and go as they please. The group can collaboratively manage mute states. Everyone can share their screens if they like.
And in those first moments joining a call, instead of making everyone wait on their own, we have a little game people can play together while everyone is getting settled. I suppose that is also treating you like a child in a way — prompting you to play a game. But I’ll happily choose that version where we use play to spur our imagination and make a tiny little bit of a connection before getting into the hard work at hand.
Check out what we’ve put together at https://team.video