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Video Conferencing As We Know It Is Changing: Ready or Not

I have been working in the video conferencing industry since hmmmm, about 1988 and have  been blogging about it since 2006, or so.  Yikes!  So many products, so many conferences, so many changes, so much fun….

Anyway, so much for nostalgia….lets roll with the FUTURE….

The title of this blog entry kinda says it all:

Video conferencing as WE know it, is changing…..and unlike previous years, this upcoming change will wait for no one, as it will be driven NOT by the video conferencing industry, but, are you ready for this, by our USERS.  Wow!  Did you hear that?  USERS will drive this industry from here on….do you know how profound that is?  Up until now, the video conferencing industry has been providing a (really cool) TOOL, that no one (well, not exactly, but, you get my point) knew how to use.

Sure companies and individuals “used” video conferencing technology (for same old reasons like “it saves money on travel”) but did they REALLY understand how profoundly video conferencing could change their lives both at work and at home?

NOPE.  Not even close.

Up Until Now…

Video conferencing companies sold their USERS a TOOL.

Then the companies taught these USERS how to set-up that TOOL, how to use that TOOL (…here is a device we call a shovel……this is how you use it……DIG!), and sure enough, the users used that TOOL, but, only as instructed:  Sit down around this table, call this number by punching this button, talk, hang-up.

They did nothing more….they just used the TOOL.

Day in and day out, month after month, year after year….the users sat around a nice table  in a conference room, meeting with similar people in far off places.  Boring.  (But, I must say, it was amazing for it’s time….but, I am getting too nostalgic).

For 20 plus years, we provided our USERS with this (amazing) TOOL that had no external benefit except to “save money on travel” (did I already say that already?) .

THEN we added stuff to this TOOL like:  Application sharing (great!), improved audio quality (Grreat!), and high definition video (eh) so we could all sit in that expensive, beautiful, BORING, conference room and see our counterpart’s wrinkles, waddles, yellow teeth, bad hair, as they sit and (Play football?, Run?, Throw a ball?….no they) TALK (i.e. is move their lips, maybe turn their heads a bit, or roll their eyes) in glorious high definition?  You don’t need HD video to do your job, or talk to people (take off your glasses to experience SD, or worse), you DO need to collaborate effectively by: Working on documents, exchanging ideas, drawing up timelines,  throwing out ideas that can change the world, and getting feedback on those ideas…. then…. collaboratively writing papers that let the world know how dang smart you all are.

THAT is collaboration.  Voice, video, and data  working in harmony as if you were all in the same location….but, remotely located from each other.  Very Personal Telepresence like….oh, see here for the ORIGINAL Personal Telepresence concept.

But, I digress.

The Future….the kids will change our world…..

As I was saying….the world of HD / Telepresence conference room video conferencing to “save money on travel” (or to provide a wonderful human to human communication “experience”) is ending (shhhh, listen to the screaming of discontent….hear it?).  Our future USERS will end it, beeeeccaaauussseee, our USERS are finally understanding the true value, the true usefulness, the true beauty, of video conferencing.  Yipppeee!

They finally understand how to use the TOOLS we gave them to enhance their lives both at work and at home.

But not ALL of our users……mainly……just the kids.  The teens of today, the young 20 somethings, these are the USERS that will change (in the next decade or two, maybe sooner, maybe later, but it will happen) our entire world (from a video conferencing perspective).

The kids of that age grew up with computers, they grew up with the Internet, and now they go bonkers over social media in all it’s wild and diverse forms: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Blogging…..whatever.

The kids of today are comfortable with communicating virtually, they are comfortable with remote work, they are comfortable with……video conferencing.  These wunder kids call it video chatting and it comes in all forms (thanks to us for providing these TOOLS):  Skype, ooVoo, Google+ Hangouts, even Facebook tried it (it was awful and they are trying again), etc. etc.

The difference is…..

The kids of today (and leaders of tomorrow) do not care to drive to a conference room and chat in HD (even though they are, by and large, wrinkle & waddle free).  They do it from Starbucks, McDonalds, Barnes & Noble, the bedroom, the family room, the airport, the airplane, trains, a corn field, playground, and, yes, the conference room…..ANYWHERE!

The kids of today do not seem to have a sense of  TIME (believe me I know…I wake up at 3 AM and do my obligatory safety check around the house, and my 20 year old is on Facebook, or video chatting).  They video chat (i.e. meet and do homework) with friends……ANYTIME!

And the kids of today are helping us old farts figure this stuff out too.  Suddenly, Grandma and Grandpa can now EASILY video conference with family (thanks to a TOOL called a Smartphone).  They can use Facetime, or Skype, or any number of really cool apps on their Smartphone.

NOW, truly, the time has come that video conferencing can be used as easy as making a phone call (ahhhh, how long have I been saying this was needed….too long…) by…..ANYONE!

Let me ask THE question:  Are these kids going to have an impact on how video conferencing is used in the workplace in the near future?  YES!

And therein lies my point…..the world of video conferencing (as we know it) is going to change to a virtual work environment (not saying when, or even saying completely, so don’t get all worried about losing your job…..yet).  People of the future WILL be working from ANYWHERE, collaborating with ANYONE,  at ANYTIME.

The conference room of tomorrow will be a virtual meeting place in the cloud (for giggles read this article on virtual work I wrote in August 1995).

The video conferencing TOOLS that WE (the collective we in the video conferencing industry) provided……are finally being understood, and utilized to their true potential, by the KIDS of today.  🙂

Summary

Anytime, anyone, anywhere.  Visual collaboration leaves the conference room and finds true love….

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Free Advice on How to Start a Telecommuting / Telework Program

Is This Fun?

Originally published on AltamontCowork.com


OK, companies…here is the free advice on how to start a telecommuting program at your place of work.

Ready? You sure?

OK….

It ain’t rocket science…..do it. DUH.

  • Give your employee a task with a deadline.
  • Let them work on it anyplace, anytime.
  • Remotely connect with them, everyday if you have to, via any of the millions of ways you can connect in 2011 (video, voice, data).
  • When the deadline rolls around, ask this question: “Is the task complete?”
  • If the answer is “Yes”…you have successfully implemented a telecommuting program. On to the next task.
  • If the answer is “No”….then that employee failed (or you did) try the same with another employee.
  • Oh yeah…set up a really nice retirement package for the Old Fashioned Bosses (OFB) who insist that people are not working unless they are seen by the OFB, and make them take it. Get them out of the way…

COMPANIES: If you are spending thousands and thousands of dollars studying telecommuting, developing rules and regulations for a program, setting up milestones, goals, and tests, etc…..YOU ARE WASTING YOUR MONEY.

Follow my rules…it’s cheaper.

🙂

Telecommuting = Coworking = Telework

BlueJeans Network: Cloud Video Conferencing

Ah yes, I remember it well.  I remember the day when I had to order an ISDN line at home (remember 2B+D?) to attend a videoconference from home (hey…I practice not just preach telecommuting!).

Then, what seems like a short time later (and after ATM and Token Ring fell by the wayside…) we set-up pretty close to the first (Dr. Bob and Tim Poe were right there with us) H.323 videoconferencing network (which grew to be the largest IP-based video conferencing network in the world for a time, at ESnet).  THAT was FUN!  We played with (yes, technology is FUN!) gatekeepers, QCIF (the old timers know) MCU’s, newly developed numbering plans, evolving H.323 endpoints, and Clint and I running it all with military precision.  Yeah right…

The picture to the left shows the old way…our way.

The very expensive MCU, Gatekeeper and H.323 endpoints (I left out a Gateway to ISDN…since well, ISDN is dead) required Clint and I to keep it all running, configured, etc etc. Some companies have a whole team of people.  Lots of money invested, and you have to have a beefy Internet / Intranet to boot.  More money.

BUT…the results were ground-breaking-ly awesome (for the time).

Again time passed all too swiftly, and now people are talking about the “cloud” (just another name for the Internet), your damn cell phones can do video conferencing, and now one company, BlueJeans Network, tells us that they are doing “video conferencing via the cloud”.

Hmmmm, so now, Clint and I are gone (actually, we are!) replaced by a company out there on the Internet with a bunch of Clints and Mikes taking care of some amorphous infrastructure cloud that connects all these cell phones, Skype, the old H.323 stuff, and telepresence fancy dancy rooms together easy as 3.14???!!!

FREAKIN AWESOME! Except for the fact Clint and I are out of jobs…..hmmmm..

Note: I actually tested BlueJeans when they were asking for help.  I referred them to several of MY old customers so they could put BlueJeans through it’s paces, where I could not (being a starving blogger and coworking location owner.).

Now BlueJeans has been released and open to anyone.   Go here to see the cost.

Imagine:  Small businesses, independents, freelancers, can now have the same video conferencing capabilities that only the huge companies could afford only a few short years ago.  And, to me, best of all, your GrandMa or brother in the Navy can connect to you at your H.323 conference room at work via Skype from the ship or porch.

VERY cool!

Here is a sweet video that explains the BlueJeans Network concept:

Summary

For the ten billionth time, I repeat:  Video conferencing ANYTIME, ANYPLACE, ANYONE.

If you have to drive to participate in a video conference…that is, hmmm, s-t-u-p-i-d….DUH.

BlueJeans rocks!  I wish them the best!

🙂

Information Technology

The world is changing. Rapidly.

Bits are flying over the Internet at an unprecedented pace.

As my loyal reader…..you know my feelings about Cisco and video conferencing, but, it looks to me as though they are getting back to focusing on handling bits….a very good thing.  For everyone!

This commercial by Cisco is interesting.  I LOVE the part where they say that you do not need to be in the office to be productive.

DUH.   Telecommuting = Coworking = Telework

Comments?

Dare I say it?   Cisco rocks?   Ouch….that hurt…. 🙂

Oh yeah…the bridge at the end is awesome…again, back to cisco’s roots.

Workers Would Take a Pay Cut to Telecommute

Is This Fun?

Here is an interesting article from the folks at CNET about IT pros willing to take pay cuts to telecommute.

You know I could say a lot about the managers who are “reluctant” to allow telecommuting.  But I’ll be nice….and not call them idiots in this blog entry.  RETIRE!  Get out of the way you old geezer (I can say that ’cause I are one)….get with the 2011 world….DUH.

#Telecommuting = #Coworking = #Telework

Future of Video Conferencing from Corning

Got this Youtube link in an email this morning….although it is a Corning glass “infomercial” it shows us (at least partly) how video conferencing might evolve in the near future…using glass.

VERY COOL.

We already have videoconferencing on mobile smartphones, and on large walls in conference rooms, so the vision put forth by Corning, although very well done and interesting, is, at this time, just the next step in the evolution of videoconferencing.  (whew that was a complex sentence 🙂 )

I’m waiting for the next ground shaking video conferencing development…mobile, smartphone, video chat was predictable.  Implant in the brain?  Eyeglasses?  Application sharing, all encompassing video and audio experience (Cave like), by moving your eyeballs….or just thinking.  Complete, easy, interoperability between all devices now handling video calls.  Maybe cloud based (yes this is coming soon….)?  Robots that act as your avatars?

AH!  Here is an idea:  How about employers finally embracing TELECOMMUTING = COWORKING = TELEWORK ??

Geeezzz, people it is 2011 and the technology to work remotely is soooooo available.  Get off the roads, save time (the most precious of your resources), save gas, save money, save the environment, reduce traffic, reduce stress, increase productivity…..telecommuting is an absolute no brainer except the for the idiot OFB’s (Old Fashioned Bosses) who demand to see you at your desk……playing Farmville or chatting with your friends.

The paradigm of getting work done should change to project based.  “Here is your project…get it done by this date…..I don’t give a shit where, or how, you do it. “

Google Docs Application Sharing

Note:  Fast forward to time 5:48 to see how you can share a doc.

This past week, I tried something new:  Joleen and I worked remotely, but, together, on a proposal we submitted for a new project.

In the old days, application sharing (working together on a document) with video conferencing stuff was unheard of.

WebEx (and others) came along to make application sharing a bit easier, but, truthfully, most of those solutions were geared toward the coporate world and were (and still are) dang expensive.

Then sometime later, video conferencing standards were developed (H.239) that allowed endpoints to present slides to a large audience, and individuals to work together on a document.  But again, the audience was limited to those who use standards-based corporate (for the most part) videoconferencing systems.

The world of collaboration was getting better. But, still difficult and costly.

Along comes Google.

And, now, application sharing using Google Docs is easy.  Super easy….in fact so easy that it never occurred to me to use it.  Why take the easy way out, when difficult is soooo much damn fun.  🙂

To make a long story short, Joleen and I worked collaborativly on a document that originated in Open Office and was uploaded to our shared folder on Google Docs.

I could see her typing, and she could see mine.  We could chat (if we were not in the same room…how funny is that?), and the document was automatically saved in the shared folder where we could both access it at anytime, from anywhere.

VERY COOL!  Application sharing made easy.  Gotta love the cloud.

If you are not using Google Docs…give it a try.  Collaborating with remotely located family, friends, and colleagues is easy, fun, and productive.

Hmmmm, Get off the roads!

Telecommuting = Coworking = Telework

Participate in TeleWork Week

I got an email today from the TeleWork Exchange.

There will be a TeleWork Week in February that you and your company can pledge to participate in.  Here is a snippet of the email.

Pledge to telework during Telework Week, a nationwide effort to encourage agencies, organizations, and individuals to telework on February 14-18, 2011.

More than 3,600 people have already pledged to telework, saving more than $260,000 in commuting costs during Telework Week.

Contribute to Telework Week – visit www.teleworkexchange.com/teleworkweek to pledge today and learn more about cost savings, commuter, and environmental benefits of this important initiative. It’s free to pledge.

Go green, give your car a rest, and pledge to telework during Telework Week.

For more information and to pledge to telework, click here.

It is time to get off the roads!!!

Increase productivity, save money, save gas, reduce stress, help save the environment. There are so many positives to telecommuting / telework / coworking that it should be a NO BRAINER for those of us with jobs that are amenable to remote work.  But remember this: telecommuting / telework / coworking  is NOT a privilege or gift to the employee….it benefits both the employer and employee so both should be equally interested in implementing telecommuting / telework / coworking.

And the technology to virtually be at work is here and super easy to implement.  Video conferencing, video chat, video call, whatever you choose to call it, your OFB (Old Fashioned Boss) can now see the whites of your eyes right on his or her desk no matter where you are working.  At home, at Starbucks, at the airport, at the library, or at your local coworking location.

Speaking of OFB’s….they really need to retire.  These are the people stopping progress.  These are the people who think you are not working unless they can see you.  How stupid.  Of course you are working, but, you are also working on your Farms, Cities, and making new “Friends”.  Here is news for you OFB:  All of this “work” is happening under your sharp eye, fooled you.

The NEW bosses will give the employee a task.  They will give the employee a deadline to complete that task.  And they won’t give a shit where that work gets done.  THAT is the new order, the way work will be done in the future.

But why wait?  Do it now.

Be progressive, be an original thinker, dare to be different.

Pledge to TeleWork / Telecommute / Cowork for a week in February….experience the benefits firsthand.

Oh yeah:  Telecommuting = Coworking = TeleWork

See all my articles on Telecommuting here.

Telecommuting / Telework Bill Passed

Is This Fun?

This article in the Washington Post tells us that today, a bi-partisian (who’d a thunk that could happen?) proposed bill to allow more Federal Gov’t workers to work at home or at other locations (like COWORKING!) was passed and will now go to President Obama for his signature.   Since he has been pushing for this, I am hopeful this will become law.

Don’t be confused:  Telecommuting = Coworking = Telework.   I don’t care what the semantics lovers say….it’s all the same…you work from a remote location.  Period.

Here is a snippet from the Washington Post article (so you can stay here and increase my view count):

“The measure requires federal agencies to develop policies allowing employees to work remotely unless their positions are specifically excluded (that means you, doctors, police officers, lab technicians, park rangers, etc.).

Telework now must become part of an agency’s contingency plans for emergency or weather situations, such as the snowstorms or potential terrorist attacks. Each agency also must also designate a telework managing officer to oversee its teleworking program.

The Obama administration and employee organizations have pushed for greater teleworking opportunities for employees, citing concerns about the continuity of government and potential cost savings. Unions note that the government saved about $30 million from employees who worked from home during this year’s historic Washington-area snowstorms.

The General Services Administration estimates that if federal workers telecommuted at least one day per week, agencies could increase productivity by more than $2.3 billion annually. Agencies also could save money on electricity, office supplies and office space.”

Now..all we need is for California to get smart..but I won’t hold my breath out here in the car loving, commute loving, road building, Golden State.

One more snippet and piece of advice for the OFB’s who contributed to this paragraph:

“But some government managers remain skeptical of the program, citing an unwillingness to manage employees they literally can’t see at the office.”

My Advice:  TIME TO RETIRE OFB!  Make room for smart people who care about the FUTURE.

9-11 and Videoconferencing History

I posted this last year….thought it would be interesting to repeat for as long as I am able. Lets not forget.

Taken August 2001 while on Vacation to NY / NJ

Taken August 2001 while on Vacation to NY / NJ

Just a quick blog entry to raise the awareness of a bit of videoconferencing history that occurred 8 years ago today. (Not to mention telecommuting, since I did all my work that day from home).

Many of the people mentioned in this email from Alan Crosswell at Columbia University (dated Sept 12, 2001) read this blog.

LINK to Alan’s Email

To them….thank you for everything you have done for videoconferencing and for helping Alan (and many many others) on that horrific day and the days that followed.

IP videoconferencing proved it’s power that day…

Re our vacation flight home in August 2001, we left from Newark bound for San Francisco on United.