Friday, April 4th, 2014 .

Here’s a piece of trivia you probably didn’t know, unless, of course, you are an entomologist (and even then you might know this): there are 17 varieties of locusts. Well, okay, there’s actually only 12 varieties, with three subspecies of tree locusts, and a couple more grasshoppers that are similar to locusts.

The actual number isn’t important (unless, again, you’re an entomologist, and even then probably not that big a deal).

What is important is that there are numerous ways that different kinds of locusts could come along and really ruin your crops in pretty terrible ways, although I’m guessing the Italian Locust would at least be stylish about it.

Similarly, as part of scholarly research I’m doing for my Ph.D. thesis at the University of Quito on “Violence-Centered Group Dynamics and Interpersonal Relationship Management in Drug Cartels: Why All the Anger?”, I have identified approximately 11 Irritating Conference Call Types. Today, we will examine two of these varieties.

1. The Repeating Everything Everyone Else Already Said Guy: Ever heard this kind of exchange in a conference call?

CALLER 1: Okay, so, what we’re planning on doing on the 19th is bringing the cement over the George Washington Bridge in a stream of approximately 125 mixers beginning at 4 am..

CALLER 2: Great. I’ll make arrangements with the city to have lights approved for the site prior to the arrival of the first truck.

REPEATING GUY: So, as far as the 19th goes, the plan is to bring in about 125 mixers across the George Washington Bridge starting at 4 a.m. That means we’re going to have to have lights. I guess arrangements will be made with the city than for lighting the site, right?

(LONG SILENCE)

CALLER 1: Yes, that’s what we just said.

REPEATING GUY: I know. I just wanted to clarify that the trucking of the cement over the George Washington Bridge will start at 4 a.m. on the 19th so that will have to be lit with approval from the city.

(EVEN LONGER SILENCE)

CALLER 2: Can we kill you?

CALLER 1: In a slow and painful way?

REPEATING GUY: So you’re suggesting that as far as my death goes, you two want to arrange it, and to make it slow and painful?

The Repeating Everything Everyone Else Already Said Guy suffers from a basic lack of self esteem.  He believes that people think he has nothing to contribute to the conversation, but if he repeats what other people are saying it will make it seem as if he has something to contribute.  In this regard, the Repeating Everything Everyone Else Already Has Said Guy is justified in his low self esteem.  He, in fact, has nothing to contribute.  He should do two things:

  • Not contribute
  • Have low self-esteem

2. The Irrelevant Topics Gal

There you all are, deep in a discussion about pricing levels on volume purchasing by major customers when this happens:

CALLER 1: I have to be honest, Carol, I think 18% is too deep a discount even on a million unit buyer.  Our margin on this is only 4% already.

CALLER 2: But Bilox Industries is offering a 16% discount at that level.  We have to do something competitive to hold market share.

IRRELEVANT TOPICS GAL: Excuse me, but does anyone know anything about upper respiratory infections in cats?  I think my cat, Bobby, has one because he’s sneezing and his breathing is labored.

CALLER 1: We weren’t really talking about cat diseases.

CALLER 2: Bobby sounds really sick.

IRRELEVANT TOPICS GAL: I’m so worried about him.

CALLER 2: Have you spoken to your vet?

CALLER 1: Can we get back to the business discussion we were having?

CALLER 2: Her cat is really sick, Bob.  Don’t you have a heart?

CALLER 1: I do, but…

IRRELEVANT TOPICS GAL: Jerk.

CALLER 1: Sorry.

The Irrelevant Topics Gal also suffers from a basic lack of self esteem.  She believes that people think she has nothing to contribute to the conversation, but if she changes the subject, she can hide this fact.  There’s no hiding it, however, but she can do three things:

  • Not contribute
  • Have low self-esteem
  • Let the cat go

In future essays, I will examine additional character types who ruin conference calls. It’s important to be able to identify these types quickly during the call so you can mute them or lock them out in order to keep your conference call moving forward.

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 .

We’ve heard a lot of requests from developers who are interested in integrating with UberConference, and we’re excited to announce that the UberConference API is finally available in a closed beta!

There are so many awesome productivity tools out there, and integrating them with quick and simple UberConference conference calls can make our workdays that much more efficient. We’re officially beginning to accept API integration requests, starting with our first integration with Kato.im.

2014-02-25-kato-mark-type-horiz

Kato.im is a powerful, free chat and messaging app designed for business. Kato allows users to chat, share files and communicate across internal and external teams. While Kato.im provides fast team communication, sometimes conversations need to be taken from a chat room to a conference call.

To solve this, Kato.im built UberConference into the product so users can instantly connect to a conference call, share their screen, or collaborate on files directly from their chat room. With this integration, two awesome products have come together for an integrated team communication experience.

Here’s how it works:

katoimuberconferenceAfter starting the conference, a message similar to this one will appear in the room:

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 10.55.24 AM

Clicking on the link in the message or dialing the number will guide everyone directly to the conference.

 

If you’d like to get access and build an UberConference integration, we’d love to hear from you! You can email us at feedback@firespotter.com with your integration idea and company details.

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014 .

“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god. ” –Aristotle, “The Politics”

When you sit down and think about it, many of the greatest accomplishments of the human race are collaborative efforts. The cathedrals of medieval France. MGM musicals like “Singing in the Rain” or “Royal Wedding”. Democracy. The Renaissance. A double double cheeseburger with fries from In ‘N Out Burger.

These are things that could only have been created by a group effort – human beings working together.

Why?  Because we are, as Aristotle observed more than 2,300 years ago, social animals. We live a common life together.

So if we live a common life together and are, at heart, social animals; why do so many teleconferences not work? What, exactly, causes them to be disappointing? I think I can confidently state that it is not because we are either beasts nor gods.

What causes many teleconferences to fail is a combination of inefficient technology and basic human politeness. These are what I call “the pain points of teleconferencing.” And they are solvable problems.

1. Set an agenda. Stick to it.

Unless the teleconference is between NFL owners, nobody gets to talk about the Super Bowl.

Before your next teleconference, send out an agenda to everyone. These are the items we will be discussing, and this is the order in which we’ll be discussing them. People are busy, and while your teleconference may in fact be the most important part of their work day, it is not the only part of their work day. Nothing kills a teleconference quicker than desultory talk about the weather, the latest flu outbreak or last night’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy. We all have other things to do today besides chit-chat right now. Stay on point, stick to the agenda, finish the call.

2. People are going to arrive late. Deal with it.

It’s just going to happen: people are going to show up late. They’ll have a million good reasons. We don’t need to hear them. We also don’t need to recap what’s been discussed already.

Think of it this way: somebody shows up late to Mass. The priest doesn’t stop the proceedings, introduce everyone, and then recap what’s happened so far. No. If you show up late, you check where in the liturgy (agenda) we are, listen in and catch up on your own.

There’s no reason a teleconference can’t operate that way either.

3. Use technology that works.

Teleconferencing technology should do the following:

— allow automatic sharing of documents during the call

— visual identification of who is speaking and participating

— late entrants can join without interrupting — or stopping — the call

If your teleconferencing system can’t do these things, your calls are going to be less effective, more painful for the callers, and, ultimately less collaborative.

We’re human beings. We’re social animals. We’re working on a problem together. Any technology you are using that disrupts collaborative work is anti-social and goes counter to who we are in our essence.

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 .

He’s a game changer and an innovator…and all over the place. Ben Huh, the guy behind LOL catsand many other internet crazes is a busy man. He says he takes at least 2 or 3 conference calls a day…and hates them! Major downer for a guy having so much fun at work. We discussed what’s wrong with the current tech and how apps like ours at UberConference (and a few others) are changing that.

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 .

Sharing becomes a truly conversational experience as UberConference kicks off a new collaborative tool for Google Drive. Now, in your conference browser, users can edit any document while discussing changes over a call. Anyone who has access to the Google Doc can edit or access the document online. Now your team can all be on a call and edit, add, and review notes in real time. No refresh windows, no second browsers. Get ready for a new wave of collaboration.
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