Why is Videoconferencing such a mess?

You know the story; it’s the last day of class and the kids are excited to say their goodbyes and such. Some quirk happens and now all is chaos because control of the room has switched to one of the students, who has very little interest in anything besides CHAOS.

What we’re not going to do is blame the teachers here. What we absolutely are going to do is blame the creators — or more accurately, the pushers of the software; because they’re the ones pushing half-baked products out of the door onto us with little consideration or consent.

(As I write this, this is the first time I’ve used the phrase “pushers” here, but the more I think about it it’s absolutely perfect. As the old joke goes, there are only two industries that refer to the customers as users.)

The Big Z (yes, I’m starting to think I need to oddly censor here since I’ve started to push some of this stuff to social media) is probably our biggest offender. Like most widespread big time software projects, they start off with a good product for a particular use (here, small deeply hierarchal work meetings ) and then end up forcing it to goop out into other services and purposes that it is not well suited for (here, most everything else).

The thing with software and software-like services: Often, you can observe a phenomenon where a business can sign big contracts and get comfy– and service suffers as a result.  What’s remarkable in this realm; it happens in “internet-time,” nearly instantly.

The OTHER thing:  Software, having such low marginal and structural costs is *theoretically* always competitive — more specifically, for every bit of software like this, there are always quite a few competitors out there, and the others are better.

This is where it is actually fruitful to pay attention to your classic economics ideas about laziness and competition;  if you want to find quality software products; look to the situations which naturally weed out companies that are given the opportunity to slack through their guaranteed clients (pun somewhat intended?)  My go-to example is Discord; it got big through videogaming, which a moment’s thought will reveal is an *excellent* filter. While people might be forced to use other services through work or school and such — most everyone on Discord is there because they want to be, on their free time.

What to do? It’s tough, but a first start is to just look around, ask questions, push back if you can. There are lots of great alternatives ready to go.  An example, my go-to for quick setup is Jitsi, though that too is just one of many.

Write a Comment