Lost in cyberspace

Tracy Burrows

I’ve noticed lately that because I use Gmail, when I send out a request for a virtual meeting in, say, Zoom or Teams, Google sneakily adds a Google Meet option into my invitation. This option directs recipients to another meeting in a different virtual place, where they might sit unattended for several minutes while I idly await them in the meeting room I intended for us to meet in. I then have to open two meeting apps and go searching for my contact who is lost in cyberspace. It’s becoming confusing, and verges on chaotic when two of the four participants went to the Google Meet room while the other two are making small talk in the Zoom room.

No sooner had we all become accustomed to dealing with just a handful of common online meeting platforms, than a plethora of new options went mainstream. Now, you need to check at least half an hour before a meeting where it will be and whether you’ll need to install a new app in order to attend. I recently enjoyed the secret satisfaction of being fastest on the draw when I had to unexpectedly install RingCentral in two minutes to join a meeting, while my colleagues helplessly emailed to say they were battling to install the app and enter the room. Half an hour later, they had given up and the meeting was over. Complaining about it on social media turned up the news that there are masses of common online meeting places now, and if you’re in calls all day, every day, and you want to be on time for your conference, you’d best have them all and learn to import your calendars from one app to another.
Online maze

There’s Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Slack, BigBlueButton, BlueJeans, AWS Chime, Whereby, GoToMeeting, Cisco WebEx, RingCentral, Blackboard Collaborate, Zoho Meeting, Starleaf, Jitsi Meet, Glip Pro, Spike, RemoteHQ, Zhumu, Talky, Jabber, join. me, Houseparty and any number of in-house large enterprise meeting platforms that are so secure, they effectively block invited participants from entering.

The really cautious enterprises will have an app that demands your email address, a supremely creative password and a participant code, hangs for five minutes, then declares you and your new password undesirable and kicks you out. Should you successfully enter a meeting room in an unexplored domain, you’ll also have the fun of trying to find mute/unmute, video off, share screen and see participants, all while trying to maintain that even tone of voice that says you’re in control of your app situation.

Mark my words, this is going to get worse before it gets better. Soon everyone will know exactly why people are rushing to end a meeting 38 minutes in (they didn’t spring for the pro version), we’ll be finding V2 of the meeting app doesn’t talk to V3, and we’ll all be dodging animated ads mid-meeting and searching for each other in the maze that will be the online meeting landscape.


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