Video Calling is Terrible

I had an awful day with video calls yesterday. Two work calls and a social podcast, right? Microsoft Teams, and Instagram Live. I’ve been doing this for months. But the audio is jittery on Teams, and it’s throwing up a weak connection” alert even though I’m getting 50mbps. So, I try switching bands, from 5gz to 2.4. It helps, like, a little, but it’s still crappy enough I’m relegated to typing in the chat box instead of talking, like an animal. During the second meeting, I do the one hack I think most people know by this point: you can be in the same Teams meeting on your computer and your phone. Why can you do this? I don’t know, but I’m glad I can, because my phone’s audio latency is perfect (on the exact same wi-fi).

Later on in the day, I notice that my wi-fi is down to 20mbps. It’s 5:30pm, and the internet always dips a little at this hour. I live in a large condo. I’m guessing it’s just the most popular time for families to be online. So, I ask my podcast partner to use Skype instead of Instragram Live to record. Skype works even when there’s no internet, I don’t know, it’s magic from the old days. But when I initiate the call, I have no audio. The webcam and my trusted Blu microphone aren’t showing up as options, for the first time in like, ten years. Frustration emoji.

So I move out to the balcony, the one place where my wi-fi never fails, and call my bud on Instagram Live. We have a pretty good chat. What a day.

I’m guessing this kind of thing isn’t all that crazy for people working and hanging out at home, but I don’t hear too many stories like it. Maybe we’re all just keeping it to ourselves. Luckily, this post appeared in my RSS feed last night and it gave me comfort. It’s not that there’s a solution, but at least you’re not alone.

Matt Webb writes:

Here’s an example of the problem: I was on Google Meet with Ben Redford (of Mayku) this morning, and he wanted to show me something but the software was being wonky. So he started a Zoom call, and sent me a link in Google Meet chat. I tapped the link and jumped to Zoom to join him… but the sound didn’t work. The Meet app was hogging the sound, so I closed that, then switched back to Zoom and we continued.

Webb suggests several solutions that are great ideas. I have no idea if any of them will ever happen, but it certainly would be nice.

I’ve talked before (on not one but two podcast episodes) about the sorry state of messaging apps, and it’s all the same shit all over again with video. We’re all stuck using seven different silo’d apps (and we are all on all of them), and none of them seem to have any interest in working together.

We’re all separated by this virus. These apps are supposed to tether us together. Why do they suck so bad at it?

October 15, 2020