WebCams Are Silly

In my book, Information Age Management, I point out webcams are not a good idea in an office environment. I bring this up in the appendix, where I discuss VOIP and Skype amongst many other technologies that help maintain excellent workflow between colleagues who do not share an office.

Now, I love Skype – even though it’s not Open-Source software. I love it not only because it it offers IM (which is what productive teams tend to use as their go-to communications medium, at least at present) and Voice (which means you get to play Charlie of Charlie’s Angels), as well as the critical-but-underused screen-sharing, but because it encrypts these services. I discuss this encryption and how much you can trust it in my book and in The Technology Appendix. The upshot is that I would prefer a FOSS alternative. But until some of the FOSS alternatives are robust enough, I’ll stick with Skype. Oh: I also love that you can get a phone number with Skype. That means that I can use the same setup with Skype and non-Skype users alike.

But Skype can also be used for video conferencing. In fact, when I recently suggested a Skype call with someone I’d just met, my friends had a friendly laugh at my expense and I was told that “to Skype” is a euphamism for being naughty on a webcam, as Urban Dictionary describes best.

So if webcams in the office create an unnecessary burden on workers, offer nothing in return (as I assert), and have such a naughty reputation, why are they still here? Personally, I blame the Hollywood directors who inspired a generation of well-meaning but technologically-challenged managers to believe that ‘video phone is the wave of the future’ or some such nonsense and left it at that. These managers might do well to read my book.

Fortunately, someone agrees with me – at least as far as webcams and Skype are concerned:

Ultimately Skype will be an unstoppable force in screen sharing. … It is interesting to see how screen sharing is hugely important for a productive long-distance meeting, and video (of a talking head) is actually not.

That is a re-quote attributed to Jan Schultink (@JanSchultink) from this blog post (emphasis added).