Noting the creepy factor when implementing video conferencing or video chatting tools (i.e. Skype, Zoom, Teams) in the workplace

Video conferencing and video chat are seriously valuable tools for businesses and families alike. This article focuses on the use of these tools in a business setting and how to identify and deal with misuse.

Two types of employees make the use of these tools a problem in the workplace: the gossiper and the pervert. These types of employees already make normal employees uncomfortable in everyday office situations. When employers add in forced face-to-face video communication where normal employees are on display (with zoom capability) with undesirables, the meetings become unsettling.

The gossiper is very easy to identify. He or she, after the meeting, quickly relays to anyone who will listen inappropriate information regarding meeting attendees.

Though easy to identify, the gossiper may be hard to silence. Over time the gossiper may also create a truly toxic environment and even jeopardize the welfare of the company or safety of other employees if they spill company secrets or safety protocols to other people. If you have trouble with gossipers in the workplace now, incorporating video communication may intensify the toxicity. Proceed with caution.

Perverts can be extremely difficult to identify because they often make inappropriate comments or gestures towards others in one-on-one encounters. This behavior is difficult to identify in a group setting. Employees may also misidentify someone as being a pervert and immediately shut down all communication with them. This strategy of course will never solve the problem if there in fact is a problem.

If you are running video meetings or managing people that are participating in them, carefully examine how people are interacting during the meetings. If something seems off, like communication is not natural, there is too much silence, or a normal employee is suddenly agitated then there could be a problem.

Here are a few suggestions that may make meetings like this bearable if you notice issues in current video-enabled meetings:

  • Make it part of the meeting policy to include meeting rules (rules are short and easy to understand) inside the meeting invitation (at the very top) of every video-enabled meeting invitation sent out so all participants understand how to behave during and after all video-enabled meetings. In the rules, be sure to clearly identify the types of inappropriate employees that make meetings difficult in the workplace.
  • Recommend that employees sit several feet away from the camera and behind a desk, so they are viewed as they are in normal in-person meetings where personal space is acknowledged (no one is looking up anyone else’s nose).
  • Give employees the option to turn the video portion off so participants cannot see them.

Good luck:)

YouTube is saving me SERIOUS money each year in salon visits

I routinely get my hair colored various shades of fabulous throughout the year.  This has been going on since I was a child when my sister experimented on my long locks in the kitchen.  This was during her very successful cosmetological phase where she contributed to the overall well-being of thousands of members of our little community in Ohio by doling out sweet styles and colors.  I’m pretty sure our town looked like the Hollywood of the Midwest during this creative time.

Up until last year I never had a problem with hair color at a salon.  I went in for a routine color:  highlights and lowlights at a salon I had been to many times before.  I left the salon happy as can be but several days later my hair turned orange.  Not just any shade of orange, it turned clown orange.  The salon had a policy of accommodating any issues so I wasn’t concerned, that is of course until I called the salon and realized they were closed on Sunday and did not have a voice mail box to leave a message and worse yet they had no one on call.  Seriously? No emergency contact?  I work in IT, I’ve been on call 24/7 for the last 15 years.  I consider hair coloring and hair styles to be AS important if not more important than some of the IT emergencies I have addressed after hours.

Panic had not yet set in, even though the Monday workday was looming on the horizon with every non-tick of my digital clock.  I called a few other salons in the area.  Then a few more salons on outlying areas.  Then a few more within a few hours drive of the house.  Then I just started driving, hoping a “walk-in” would be most effective to truly get across the urgency of the situation. Once they got my bright orange head in their sights they would surely switch into emergency room mode where only the most critical are seen first.  Nope.  Every salon, in town and outside of town, was either closed or booked for the day.

For a brief moment I considered stopping by the drugstore and picking up a box of color to fix the issue myself but then I remembered I am a computer programmer and I had in no way ever paid attention to what anyone was doing to my hair in all the years of colors and cuts.  It all seemed pretty magical to me and I had no faith that I could actual do something like this on my own.

Disgusted, I went home and did what any normal person does when they are disgusted, I went to http://www.youtube.com to watch videos of baby bunnies and kittens to cheer myself up:)  While I was there, on a long-shot, I did a search on do-it-yourself hair color videos.  Holy Schnikes! It was a mammoth library of the secrets of the hair color universe revealed to me in 3-minute clips of how-to glory.  The videos were so detailed, right down to what type of box to buy at the drugstore.  By the time I watched a few of the videos I had convinced myself I could color my own hair.  I raced down to the drugstore, bought the recommended color and brand for $8.00.  Yes.  Really.  $8.00.  I successfully colored my own hair with about 13 hours to spare before the Monday morning workday would begin.  I was so happy with the results that I have not been able to justify what I was paying in the salon and I continue to color my own hair thanks to the fantastic tutorials on YouTube.  If you have ever considered coloring your own hair and do not know where to start, visit YouTube first, it is filled with useful information on the subject of hair color.  Here are a few videos I found most helpful when doing my own research:

Think of all the things you can buy with the money you will save! If you need help, here is a list of what is out there in internet land just waiting for you and your cash:

Good luck gorgeous!

Being internet stupid must stop, how can people believe this junk?

Holy schnikes.  I ran into another case of a person being duped by misinformation on Facebook this weekend.  I’ve lost my patience with the spread of misinformation and from now on the nicest thing I can call it is being internet stupid.

This is the conversation I had that brought this issue to light for the 8 billionth time:

An educated adult who has been in the workforce for many years was telling me about the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood show and various facts about Mr. Rogers himself.  Facts about Mr. Rogers are well known and are easy to verify so I was really surprised that this person was so drastically misinformed about Mr. Rogers.  When I inquired as to where they had uncovered such nonsense, the reply was something I had already suspected:  Facebook.  The person was stunned that what they had read about Mr. Rogers on a Facebook post was so far from the truth.  The person kept repeating things like “the post seemed so believable”, “I can’t believe I was fooled”, blah blah blah blah.  I will not link to the actual Facebook post here because I do not want to contribute to the spread of misinformation but the post went into detail about a military career that is purely fiction.

I avoided launching into a tirade about misinformation because we all must deal with it so I kept it light and just reminded the person that a social network is just a social network, expect no more than what you would obtain from conversations in a public place with strangers and if you are going to pass along information you have learned from these encounters then you need to fact check first.

Everyone complains about our news organizations (ABC, NBC, FOX, CNN, newspapers, etc) but these news organizations have shown for many, many, many, many years an attempt to deliver news to us with an attempt to fact check and they are held accountable for their mistakes – not always immediately – but they are in many cases.  Random morons floating around Facebook (and other areas of the Internet) that are posting information that has in no way been checked for accuracy are rarely held accountable for the misinformation they spread.  If their account is blocked, they just open another one.  It is up to you to do proper research before spreading information to the entire world with one click of a button.

Good luck.

Feedback form landfill

Why would a perfectly good company with a sweet web site have a feedback form on the web site yet never reply in any way to anything submitted via the feedback form?  I bet the Magic 8 Ball cannot even answer this one.

As an introvert, I love the feedback form.  The feedback form allows me to submit my question or request without interacting with humans.  If I have not heard back from anyone at the company within three weeks then I assume copious amounts of infighting are taking place within the organization causing normal day-to-day operations to cease.

I guess I could blame the webmaster but since I am a webmaster as well, I just cannot do that.  I realize some of these form submissions go straight to the email box of specific individuals within an organization and depending on those persons goals in life, my data coming into their email box may be the number one priority or not even fall on their radar.

If you are a webmaster, and you or your clients are ignoring feedback form requests coming in, I recommend removing the feedback form from the web site immediately.  Ignoring requests coming in is not only wasting the time of the visitor filling the form out but it is also generating content that you or your clients have to read and deal with and if no one is caring for this data then the process needs to stop.  This stop action will now free up the time of the visitors so they may begin their lifelong wish of learning how to cross-country ski and you and your clients now have the opportunity to play Pac-Man without interruption.

To give you an idea of how frustrating it is to be ignored, I have included a feedback form below, please fill it out and I promise I will never acknowledge the existence of your form submission.  After about one month of waiting for a reply from me, you will find yourself slightly agitated and morose.  These feelings will soon pass but then a giant wave of regret will follow and you will wish you had never filled this form out.  Once you have reached this stage there is nothing you can do but wait it out, preferably in a hot tub on cool nights and just hope for the best.

Easy ways to spot fake social media accounts

When a few of my family members started using Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, I was quickly reminded of how humans seem to be naturally inclined to believe everything they see in print.   I had to cover a few basics with them once they started interacting on social media platforms because they initially went through a phase where they believed, in some instances, that they were interacting with real people when it fact they were actually just interacting with bots.

Keep the following tips in mind if you are new to social media, they may help you identify fictitious online accounts (and the rule is to just ignore them or if they are posting threats then report them):

  • look at the list of followers the person has and ask yourself: does each follower have a “perfectly beautiful face and model clothing?” – if so then the person is probably not real and neither are any of their followers
  • look at the list of followers the person has and ask yourself: does the person have a very small number of followers (like 10) but they are following thousands of people? – if so, then the person is probably not real
  • does the person only forward existing posts from other people and never actually say anything themselves? – if so, then the person is probably not real
  • does the person only post the same “type” of material all day long? (like they only post quotes from famous people, never posting anything “genuine”) – if so, then the person is probably not real
  • does the person send private messages to you that are generic phrases that would apply to a million scenarios? (like this: “Hey, so nice to meet you, it is a big world out there, I like to connect) – if so, then the person is probably not real
  • does the person post messages at the same interval each day (like at the top of every hour or every day at exactly 2:30pm) then the person is probably not real

Avoid using social media for anything other than socializing.  Obtaining news about current events for your community and nation should be obtained from traditional news organizations who have a track record of many years of attempting to relay facts to the public.

A tiny gadget is really creeping me out but I want one!

Have you seen the Tile commercial? The gadget demonstrated seems innocent enough: a family tracks down a cute lost teddy bear in a big city for their adorable child via a tiny gadget clipped to the teddy bear. As I watch this sweet moment unfold I can’t help but envision a serial killer sipping coffee at a quiet little coffee shop somewhere in my town, dark thoughts churning through his strained brain. His name is something calm like Robert. He casually walks around the coffee shop, unnoticed in his khaki pants and brown wool pullover, and drops these gadgets in the BAPs (Big *** Purses) of women he wants to track and later dismember in his basement of evil that is obviously wallpapered in disturbing patterns of over-zealous vines climbing the walls. I will write a book about Robert some day.

I realize I have a very active imagination so in all honesty I seriously doubt the coffee horror house of deception is ever going to happen, even if the community of Tile trackers grows exponentially, but just in case it does I will give you this advice: To all the glorious gals out there like me that carry BAPs, actually clean the purses out once a week so you know exactly what is in there at all times. If you happen to find a Tile in there that doesn’t belong to you then be sure to leave it in a public place for the serial killer to later find – maybe create a chalk outline on the ground with white tape and place the Tile in the center of it.

If you have a BAP but have lost the desire to lug it around with you, please reconsider. Pick that bag up and go! It is like walking around with your very own tour bus. Here are a few items I highly recommend adding to your BAP – so dust it off, fill it up and get out there and live:

  • huge bottle of hairspray
  • box of strawberry Pop-Tarts (frosted)
  • paperback murder mystery
  • cozy socks
  • journal and pen
  • jar of peanut butter and baggie full of bird seed (you won’t eat this, this is for when you are in the park – twirl pine cones in the jar then dip the cones in the baggie full of bird seed and leave pine cones on the ground to attract big foot – he gets hungry to you know, stop being so selfish.. what evs)
    framed 8×10 of Betty White

Creepy aside, the Tile is an outstanding product. I’ve seen it in action at my sister’s house, they use it to locate sets of keys. I am especially interested in using the Tile in the arena of stolen vehicle recovery (cars, boats, snowmobiles), especially for older models that do not contain any traceable wireless signals by default. The Tile can easily be permanently concealed within the frame of a vehicle and then utilized for tracking should the vehicle ever be stolen. Just don’t be tempted to track the use of the vehicle if it has not been stolen….you know you want to! Cut it out! Behave! You are such a maniac…

Video gaming descent into nothingness, what is going on?

My circle of peeps since as far back as me being a kid in Lima, Ohio, and playing heated games of softball in the boulevard after school, have always been a mixture of active and/or intelligent humans with an over-the-top zest for life.

My first FANTASTIC introduction to video games during my childhood, Atari, never pulled my focus away from living in the real world for long each day and why would it? How could it? With the sun shining, the birds singing, bugs biting and bikes to ride, it never dawned on me (even as an introvert) to hide on the couch and jump into digital make-believe for hours at a time.

I reflect on my childhood now when I read the news and when I listen to some of our friends complain of their children’s descent into long periods of digital nothingness.  I worry humans are becoming more and more detached from society.   I understand the attraction of the digital world because reality is difficult, scary, painful and messy with the rare and perfect sprinkle of fabulous that makes it all worthwhile.  But I also understand, as does the scientific community, what happens to humans and animals long-term when live social interaction is significantly diminished:  physical and mental health deteriorate.

If you or your children are descending into a nothing abyss via the Internet or video gaming highway, make a resolution to makes some changes.  Nothing drastic, it can start with taking a walk each day or pick up the phone and call your Great Grandmother Mildred who is probably cursing you right now because she hasn’t heard from you in 5 years, or get a hamster – http://www.myhamsterzoo.com.  What are you waiting for?

Time to clean up your social media hot mess

Here is your year-end IT guilt trip if you post content, photos and videos to social media: clean up your hot mess at least once a year by deleting things you should not have posted to begin with like things you did not have explicit permission to post (photos/videos of other people), content that contains false information and content that contains the embarrassing dirty laundry of your 3rd cousins nephews son who got into a fight with another customer at the pack n’ go over the last pack of smokes on the shelf.

Posting content you do not have permission to post can cost you a great deal over time.  Trust is a grand thing.

Social Media Complainers and In-Person Complainers

complain

I only know a few people that consistently complain in real life as well as on social media regarding topics of pet care all the way to politics. Their level of complaining in-person is high and is fairly consistent with their level of complaining within social media platforms. In the years I have known them I have noted two discouraging behaviors:

  1. They continue to complain regardless of whether the problem they are complaining about is solved or not.
  2. They put forth very little or no effort towards a meaningful resolution to the problem they are complaining about.

These observations, over time, have left me with no patience when listening to or reading complaints from anyone about anything.

A constant barrage of complaints can make for a terribly negative atmosphere where nothing other than rage and impatience are accomplished.  If you find yourself frustrated with complainers in your own life, look to science for solid suggestions on how to change your own behavior to better communicate with unproductive complainers. Science peeps have spent a lot of time studying humans and have really helpful suggestions on how to make things better (example: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201107/how-deal-chronic-complainers).  As opposed to my method which is normally a snarky rebuttal like “you know, I have a feeling you would complain about winning the lottery” which often garners a shocked and hostile response of more complaining. Yes, I am the worst example of how to interact with other humans – this could explain why I don’t leave the house much:)

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