Tag Archives: technology

When Conference Calls Go Wrong…

21 Jun

If that headline means nothing to you, then you clearly don’t work in business. Or are still in high school. Because otherwise, you know: conference calls are recipes for disaster.

I mean, even a routine weekend call with my parents holding separate extensions in their home usually has at least one snag. (Namely, my dad deciding to take that moment to untwist the cord, which makes a crackling noise, prompting my mom to yell, “John! What the hell are you doing?”)

So take many people, put them on a shared line for 60 minutes and see what happens.

First, there is always THAT PERSON. You know the one. The person who – no matter how long s/he has worked at the company and how many calls s/he has been on – forgets the cardinal rule: Never Put The Call On Hold.

When pushing the HOLD button, that person sends a complex message, kind of like:

  • I’m the most important person on this call, so just cool your heels until I’m back.
  • I don’t know how technology works.
  • Sorry, I have REAL work to do, suckers.

Personally, I believe companies should have some forum where public shaming can occur in the wake of an incident like this. I mean, I’m not advocating disciplining or firing someone. No. But if peers could trash talk him/her for 24 hours without consequence, where a photo could be uploaded for a Dumbass Caption Contest?  Probably pretty effective at putting an end to that behavior.

I will go on record and admit: I have been that person. And I was publicly shamed. And it didn’t happen again. Which might be why I support that method.

You know who else there is? The person who doesn’t know how to mute his line. And who also happens to be related to Darth Vader. Or big on crank calls. Because without fail, there is always one person who breathes into the phone like it’s an oxygen mask, who makes people believe the call will be interrupted at any moment with the words, “Luke. I am your father.”

And if you’ve never heard that guy on your call? Sorry: it’s YOU. Find your mute button.

And yet, I can’t be too hard on him. Because I’ve also had issues with my mute button. I once ran to the bathroom when I thought I was both a) muted and b) on hold. Turns out neither was true. Fortunately, I’m good with improv so I think I successfully played it off as if I were washing dishes. Or owned a horse.

If you’re still not understanding what I’m talking about, watch this as a primer:

So today I was on a series of calls. On one call, to help people understand how excited her team was about something, my friend used a phrase like, “They lept up and squeaked like dolphins.” I appreciated the unique simile – it’s not every day I have to step back and think about what something might’ve looked like. So much better than a meaningless corporate cliché.

About that time in the background you could hear another person exiting their car, given away by the tell-tale beep signaling keys in the ignition. “What is that noise?” one of my colleagues asked.

“Sonar,” I told her. “Someone is approaching the office.”

On another call – one I was leading – I got all wound up and started pulling vocabulary words like I was playing Scrabble. Only in editing the recording did I realize I’d used the word “penultimate” incorrectly. Turns out, it doesn’t mean “the most amazingly awesome thing ever.” In Other Disappointing News, it means: next to last.

As in, that is the penultimate time I ever use that word.

And now for the part I really wish I were making up…

I was on another call today – a smaller call, with only about ten people in attendance. We were working out all aspects of a large program that is set to launch on Monday, so it was a pretty tense call. We were mapping out timelines, confirming action plans, working out worst-case scenarios.

As we wrapped up the call, a lot hung in the balance. Based on how each person leaving that call performed their piece – and any technical bugs they encountered – we would reach a “go” or “no-go” decision the next day. After recapping commitments, I thanked everyone and went to close the call by saying, “I’ll be waiting for your updates with bated breath.”

Except I got a little tongue-tied.

And instead, I closed the call by telling everyone, “I’ll be waiting for your updates with bated breasts.”

Speaking of mental images…

I can’t make this up people. There is actually a website that sells boob hooks.

I think we’re starting to sound like old ladies.

22 Jan

When I arrived at my friend’s house for dinner this week, she opened the door clutching a remote and looking frazzled. She was trying to get music from their cable provider to play through the stereo without the television being on. “I know it’s ridiculous to let this stress me out,” she said, “But it’s completely annoying. When did it become so difficult to do something simple?”

I looked at her remote and could see the problem: it was like the Ferrari of remotes. “What all does this control?” I asked her, intimidated by its eight bazillion buttons.

“Everything,” she said. “My husband has programmed it so that everything is driven by this one remote. It probably controls me, for all I know!”

I cracked up, imagining a “Power Down Spouse” button. And then realized that most people would probably like a remote like that – something to pause their children or mute their partners.

You know technology has jumped the shark when your friend, an IT professional, is shaking a remote, saying, “When did it all get so complicated?”

HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey

Did you know? The French version of Hal was named Carl.

“I mean,” she continued, “the other day I was thinking about phones. The new iPhone has a feature that will read text messages to you. How crazy is that? We went from leaving voicemails for each other, to sending text messages to each other, to having computers read these text messages to us. It just seems like we’re ADDING steps instead of removing them.”

So true.

That has been kicking around in my head this week as more than one friend has apologized for being slow responding to me because their new year’s resolutions include technology fasts. I like it – the idea of completely unplugging one day a week to regain our power over the devices that increasingly control us.

Otherwise, we might as well start naming our children Hal. Or Carl.

A Somewhat Rambling Ode to Steve Jobs.

5 Oct

I knew Steve Jobs resigned in August for health issues, but I had no idea he was cutting it this close. The news that he died shocked me.

At first, I was sad that he had barely gotten a month of retirement under his belt before dying. That would SUCK, I thought. But then, I revised my opinion and came back with: Good for him. 

Good for him. He, who was passionate about technology? There wouldn’t be a pasture engaging enough for someone with a mind like that. It would’ve been a slow death, being killed a thousand times over, sitting on the sidelines and watching technology emerge without having a hand in it. Smart Man to work until he wasn’t able. I can appreciate that.

But that’s not what this post is about. This is about how Steve Jobs changed my life.

Continue reading

How quickly we forget…

26 Sep

I was in LA all last week for work, turning in 12+ hour days while battling a cold. This week I’m off to NYC for more of the same, so I took it easy over the weekend. By which I mean: I spent all of Sunday rolling around on my couch, reading and napping, which is completely out of character for me.

Before I tell you this next part, I would like to reiterate: I was VERY tired. And I was alternating between a hard copy of Bon Appetit magazine and an iPad version of Vanity Fair, so what happened next is somewhat understandable.

Instead of turning the page of the magazine, I took my finger and slid it on the article, trying to get it to move up the page. Except, it turns out that only works on an iPad. Not on a real magazine.

As soon as I did it, I was a bit sheepish because it called to mind more than one dumb blonde technology joke: Using white out on a computer screen; Asking someone to fax over a blank piece of paper.

I am convinced: technology is making me dumber.

All lightsabers must be inspected. No exceptions.

21 Jun

This morning the airport was a typical Monday zoo. I was behind a dorky looking couple that went out of its way to engage with the TSA worker who was shouting out security checkpoint reminders.

TSA: Please remove all laptops and electronic devices and place in a plastic bin.

Dork: Tell me more about the types of electronic devices that need to come out of a bag.

TSA: Well, what do you have that you’re unsure of.

Dork: The question is what don’t I have. <Snickers with equally dorky wife>

OK. It’s not very charitable for me to label them as dorks without providing some of the indicators and parameters of dorkiness.

First, he was wearing denim shorts – also known as “jorts” (deriving from “jeans shorts”) which were last popular with non-retirees in 1991.

(Why the age-based stipulation? Because AARP members can dress however they would like without looking dorky. Or rather, it is expected that retirees give up on being trendy, just go with what’s comfortable and have earned the right to tell anyone who judges them to piss off.)

Second, he had a Bluetooth in his ear the entire time we were waiting in line (25 minutes) without actually using it to make or receive a phone call. That’s like a techie’s earring.

The TSA worker even pointed to it and said, “You’ll need to put that in the bin as well,” to which the Dork just nodded but didn’t remove it. He waited until the last possible minute to give it up, presumably because he was waiting for a VERY IMPORTANT call.

When he loaded up his bin, I was too distracted by dealing with my own stuff to notice what sorts of electronic devices he was unpacking, so I had to wait until we were on the other side of the x-ray to watch him reclaim his items.

What did he have? High-end camera equipment? Multiple laptops? iPhones aplenty? Um, no. Try Walkie-Talkies. Four of them. And one Bluetooth headset.