Could UC Video Usage Growth Come From Unexpected Scenario? Virtual Camaraderie

Lately Marissa Mayer’s CEO of Yahoo has been in the news quite a bit because of her controversial request that Yahoo employee’s return to the office. Whether you are a UC professional that thinks this is horrific or an entrepreneur that see this as great move to cure a corporate culture gone astray, it does put the spotlight on remote workers and how they interface with others.

Many UC and related vendors are eager to see video as “the new voice”, but I have wondered aloud if video will actually get the traction because of several inhibitors:

  • The freedom of “not being seen” can actually be thought of as a feature?
  • many seem to be replacing Voice with text messaging, not video?
  • the high “social cost” of face to face video?
  • some note that they expand the content over the video for business meetings that are not of a “high-stakes” nature
  • even at UC shops, users seem need to need to be asked to start video: if people crave video, wouldn’t they naturally start it?
  • both sides need to decide to start it, and there seems to be a extra pause not present with a voice call.

This article is not a anti-video, but thinking aloud if possibly the largest amount of video in the future will not replace voice, but actually come from an untapped new type of scenario: Virtual Camaraderie. (a term coined, I think, by Scott Hanselman) Currently when we think of UC video we think of someone starring intently right at us (or up above us ;-) but could many more video minutes come from creating virtual camaraderie scenarios with separated teams?


Think about your actual in person interactions when you work with someone in person. You don’t see there starring at each other---you sit along side. In this model no one needs to be continuously talking or even think about being looked at. This is the kind of vantage point where camaraderie, brainstorming and mentoring can occur naturally during the course of the day. It’s interesting to hear stories of when  IT pro’s started out, with their desk near a mentor—learning, overhearing great work on problems etc, learning by just being around. Could this be recreated virtually?

There is likely few people that are familiar with remote working and can communicate the challenges as Scott Hanselman. He has written a great article on the challenges and benefits of the remote worker that got me thinking once again about his interesting Microsoft Lync project that enables Lync (a concept that could work with any UC/video calling solution) to provide virtual camaraderie (virtual cube buddy?, VC2? Video Buddy? Video Mentor? Video Office Group?) by having a 2nd video camera from the vantage point of a desk nearby rather than staring into the camera. So your video call buddy is more like “with you in the next cube” providing casual, ambience like interaction instead “you have my full attention” expected in a normal video call.

Perhaps UC vendors need to build “Virtual camaraderie” (VC?) functionality into their products? Below are a couple components I would think about:

  • Users would need 2 video cameras: one standard video call & one VC camera
  • Perhaps a second USB monitor that can be place beside you along with that 2nd cam
  • audio for VC session set to “like 1 cube over”?
  • Users Ability to Call their VC camera (separate from calling them normally)
    • in lync this could be like calling their mobile? or private line? or another modality?
  • Control’s around who can call your VC
  • your VC would automatically answer authorized “buddies”
  • when in a VC “call” (session?) presence not set to busy
  • When you make a call it does not necessarily put the VC session on hold
  • and likely more pieces I didn’t think about

Indeed, perhaps BYOD will beat UC vendors to this? Just buy a $150USD Android tablet, install Lync 2013 Mobile, setup UserName_VirtualOffice in Lync and have people call that with their own VirtualOffice user?

If you want to see Scott’s VC setup using Microsoft Lync and Logitech BCC950:

And maybe Yahoo just needs a little “virtual camaraderie”? Maybe all virtual teams do? What do you think?


Other notes:
Other names for the scenario: virtual cube, virtual cube buddy? vcube?

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