TWIT 813: Zoom Dating

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Alex Lindsay speaks from an incredibly privileged position in his critique of Zoom Fatigue. While he may have said more - my take-away from his comments is that all you need is some upgraded equipment (like a $30 microphone), a wired network connection, and some good lighting and you’re good to go. And that he doesn’t really get other reasons for why video calls are exhausting.

His perspective on why people turn off their cameras was particularly off-putting for me. I was recently on a large (90+ people) Zoom call and we were advised that turning off our cameras would help people with low bandwidth. If you are accessing the internet from anywhere except a major metropolitan area - you likely (not guaranteed, but probable) have horrible internet. Regardless of your lighting, or wired connection, or microphone - if you have 2 MB up on your internet and are in a household where others are also using the internet - you are going to have bandwidth issues.

I would respectfully ask Alex to live for a month like a typical middle-America internet user who doesn’t live in a city with a population greater than 100,000 or has limited options for internet.


Also, he has been making video calls for all over a decade, most people have never used video conferencing, or just once or twice a year, in large groups in a conference room.

Now they are expected to make hours of calls a week, if not per day.

Most of our users still use the phone, instead of Teams, for example.


I do agree with the sense that too many “solutions” are “lets have a video meeting.” I guess this is a symptom of “too many [face to face] meetings” when people were in an office. There is so much technology out there, I don’t think every little decision needs a meeting, whether in person or on the phone/VoIP or in a video meeting.

IMHO, people (probably mostly team leaders and managers) need to learn how to compose their need for input in such a way that it tends toward closure and not opening it up into a multiple [frequently conflicting] meetings. This has the side effect of them taking responsible for a decision made… and I think too many meetings are intended to allow negative decisions to be blamed on “everyone” because “everyone” had too much input. “Spreading blame like peanut butter… so everyone is stuck with it.”


I can appreciate concerns about privilege. Not everyone can dedicate space, or have good internet. That said, the biggest issue is just having good audio-- and it costs so little to get a dedicated headset that not having one is unacceptable. If your bandwidth is so bad that it cannot maintain decent audio then use a headset with your phone and dial in.

I think for every person out there doing their level best and just being beaten back by poor bandwidth there are many more who just don’t care or are simply ignorant. I was on a call with a very very senior leader at my company today and he couldn’t be bothered to use a headset. He sounded like crap. When I was still in the office I would routinely see people join calls from their private offices using speakerphone. They were in the meeting on their computer so they could see whatever was being shared, but they would dial in so they could use their speakerphone. And the result was predictably terrible audio.

Amen to too many meetings. I get meeting invites that don’t even have an agenda or any kind of details on what will be discussed, or what is expected of me. That is never a good sign.

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Yes, I think I am very “lucky”, we have a 1 hour team meeting every 2 - 3 weeks. I go on conference calls maybe 2 - 3 times a month. Teams calls with the users, probably about 10 minutes a day.

My boss has been on a lot of calls with suppliers lately, where half of his day has been on the receiving end of presentations.

I would say 80% of our users avoid the camera, where they can. Some training sessions require a camera - the Project Management team insist everybody has a camera and it is turned on during the training. But for normal calls, they still do audio only.

The problem isn’t the cost of headsets, although they have doubled in the last year, it is actually getting them delivered! We had to wait up to 6 weeks for headsets this time last year. Now, we order whatever we can get our hands on (but named brands, like Jabra, Logitech or Dell - which are made by Jabra), that can be delivered relatively quickly. The same for web cams. And the quality is very variable.

Again, a speakerphone (or using the loud speaker and microphone on a laptop - or in my case, the good speakers on my monitor and the web cam microphone) is a damned sight more comfortable than wearing a headset or holding a phone to your ears for hours on end. If I am going to be in a long meeting, I will switch to the external speakers and take off the headset. If it is just a short call, I’ll wear the headset. But they are uncomfortable and get in the way, when worn for long periods.

Teams is actually very good with echo reduction. I’ve yet to hear any echo from loudspeaker users. Also, the microphone in the camera is often better than may of the Logitech and Jabra headsets we have!

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The too big for their boots discussion was interesting. What the panel didn’t discuss, with Amazon, was its own brand products appearing in key segments to compete with the big sellers - they have actually been accused to sabotaging good selling products, by making their own version and burying the original.

I have no idea how much substance there is to the story, but that the story keeps reappearing over the years sounds like there might be something to it. Curbing that practice might be one step, for example.

Apple, Google and Microsoft have done similar things over the years, talking to small competitors, then, suddenly, their products have the same features the competitor had and the competitor sinks without a trace.

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I teach music lessons outside a minor Metropolitan city. Switched to online platforms and I’m positive the lack of high speed internet options, and poor/old wifi routers are to blame for a not so great experience. Never once did I have a connection at 720p, on average I would get 2Mbps up even though my connection should support 12 up. We have 2 providers here, and I can always tell who is on AT&T. The stream quality was constantly being adjusted. I ended up dropping Zoom for a company using Jitsi tuned for music lessons. One way they tuned it was caping the resolution and fps so the stream can remain stable, and there still is occasional issues.

My kids are in 2nd grade, and were given an option to go all virtual. They’ve actually been doing really well. They have a 90 min full class WebEx call 4 days/week (with a 15 min brain break), and 2-15 min small group calls/day for math and reading. They continued to score really high on the math and reading tests. The only thing they’re really missing is the socialization in-person school offers.


I was suffering from a surprising amount of fatigue on video calls once the cumulative duration got up to around 90 mins. In my case it seemed to be associated with my involuntarily attempting to maintain eye contact with all the attendees at once.

Once I developed the habit of dragging the call window mostly off screen so I couldn’t see anyone (including myself, which is just as bad) the fatigue went away. A quick double-click on the title bar brings the window up full screen if I do need to see someone or unmute my mic, or someone wants to present, and another double-click puts it out of sight again.

Has the advantage that I’m still on camera and able to look at the screen without getting fixated on all those faces.

For headsets to use on business calls, I’m now a convert to the Aftershokz OpenComm bone conduction headset. Similar to the Aeropex from the same manufacturer, but with a small boom mic. Very lightweight, ridiculously long battery life, leaves your ears clear so you can still hear things around you, nice tonality for voice comms. Not cheap, but seem to be very good quality. Proprietary charging cable with magnetic connection to maintain moisture-proofing, so you have to take that into account. Bluetooth range is decent, I can get around 35 feet away with a closed fire door between myself and the PC before the sound starts to break up.


So many headsets are crap products that I’m not sure having a headset for video calls is improving anyone’s experience. Seems like every telecon I’m on, the thing gets interrupted because someone can’t get their headset to pair to their laptop, or the battery is dead, or the audio is garbled.

My biggest problem with video calls is physical fatigue from staying in the same position for hours so that I my face stays in the frame of my camera. That’s significantly alleviated by using my standing desk if I have a break or a shorter meeting.

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We all get wired headphones, so no problems with connectivity (as long as the user can find the USB socket (2 users couldn’t work out how to plug in a USB headset!)). The company is equipping hundreds of users, so the headsets are relatively cheap, but good named brands and designed for business use.

As we are not allowed to use private headsets or cameras on business equipment, we are limited to what we are provided.

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Re Zoom fatigue I had the weirdest experience in the past week: had two meetings with a financial consultant, both on the same topic, one in person and with a mask and the other remotely via Zoom.

Turns out, based purely on the experience of communicating, I prefer Zoom greatly over meeting in person with a mask. There is so much communication lost due to not being able to read a face and such a degree of weirdness introduced by only being able to look into the other person’s eyes instead of being able to scan their face.

So while I understand and experience Zoom fatigue, too, I’d prefer a video call over masked meetings any day.


My comment was only meant to be a general observation, and I used the “Reply” button at the bottom of the page… but as your post was the last one at the time I posted, Discourse appears to have decided I must be replying to you. 🤷🏻
Agreed we all have to do what we can within supply and security constraints; I was lucky to be able to experiment. I can definitely relate to the issue of users not knowing how to plug something into USB; Leo negotiates a few tricky moments like that on TTG sometimes.


I get your exclamation point, but I also want to make fun of the mess that is USB. If you think of old style PS/2 keyboard and mouse connectors, IBM was smart enough to colour code the connector ON BOTH SIDES. You plug the purple connector into the purple socket. With USB there are multiple sizes, shapes and colours on the PC side, but generally the device side has no discernible colour pattern. Additionally, USB connectors are frequently designed in twos and being both the same colour, it can be hard to realize there are two, which orientation they are, and that it’s not just one big strange connector. USB-C is better, but far from available, and now they want to further confuse it by making some of them TB4, but not all. Really, it’s a mess that no human deserves to have to deal with.

Yes, but it was a pc with only USB-A ports and a USB-A called headset.

…and there always used to be a saying that it took three tries to get a USB-A plug in the right way up. :wink: