Microsoft Teams and Zoom have a brilliant new competitor (if you can lip-read)


Focus. They’re talking about you.

Screenshot by ZDNet

What do remote workers really want?

Oh, what does anyone really want?

More time, more money, more love and more roads to happiness.

Technology, for all its brilliance, has not quite succeeded in delivering all of these things. Especially during the pandemic.

As many employees worked from home, they got used to spending hours on Microsoft Teams and Zoom conversations every day.

It was exhausting. There seemed no time for casual conversation. Or, better yet, some deep-seated corporate gossip.

You could be in so-called happy hour events, but only one person could talk at a time. And that person was usually talking for at least half of the event, because their greatest joy lies in hearing their own voice.

I was therefore momentarily desensitized when I was attacked by a new product. Or rather, by the PR people of that new product.

“You should look at this,” they shouted. How could I resist such an elegant plea?

It turned out that this thing is called Watercoolr. And it stems from a company called Shindig.

Conveniently, there is a YouTube video. It’s voiced by the kind of actor who might be more versed in running an ad for an uncomfortable digestive condition.

However, perhaps this is a suitable casting. Because here we are talking about pain.

“Healthy relationships between colleagues are under pressure,” the pained voice whispers. “Meeting room lunches, quick coffee breaks and visits to your favorite colleague in the hall have been lost.”

This man could easily pronounce the Oscars In memory segment.

He’s talking about teamwork. While the video shows a group yoga session. Is this what your office used to look like?

But let’s get to the point of Watercoolr. It is “a new way to foster community and informal conversations among today’s virtual workforce.”

“How,” I hear you roar, “can it do this?”

Well, your teams all come together on one screen. Then they mate and move into private rooms.

Wait, it’s not quite like that, although I suppose it could be. Instead, click on a colleague’s picture and offer them a private conversation. Or join the conversation they are already engaged in. It’s like one big party where you can network to your heart’s content. Or maybe not work.

You’d think you’ve heard a version of this before. Me too. But then I heard the delicious part.

Shindig founder and CEO Steve Gottlieb told me, “Zoom, Teams, Bluejeans and everyone else are built around a single audio channel and a single conversation, in which everyone participates. It’s a simple hub-and-spoke architecture. This works great for 4, 6 or 8 participants. not so good for 14, 16, 18.”

But isn’t that why companies have breakout sessions?

Gottlieb explained: “Breakthroughs, isolated private preset chats are very different from being in a private chat that is part of a shared experience. A breakout doesn’t allow you to see all the other things happening in the event or you can easily move conversation to conversation or merge groups or bring people into your conversation at will.”

So you can see anyone who has a little private gossip? Yes, that’s possible. The company says the technology “allows for a series of private conversations at the same time, where one can see but not hear the other talkgroups.”

You can see their lips move, but not hear what they say. Oh, the possibilities for lighting.

Immediately I see people practicing lip reading. Finally they can “hear” what their colleagues really think about everything. Including them maybe. You would be amazed at what people say about you behind your back.

I imagine people “hearing” what someone else just said about them in another group and immediately trying to join that group asking, “What did you just say about me?”

What a brilliant, subversive way to promote employee engagement and introduce open management.

Bosses are also attracted to these things. not true?

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