More online meetings, less short-distance flights

Last night, a favorite MP twittered about giving up short-distance flights and suggested: “more online meetings”.

To be clear, I don’t question that some face-to-face meetings are really indispensable, because they seed the trust relationships for long-term future cooperation. But what is the obstinate obstacle against some more online meetings?

I have a very special suspicion. I think it is probably the jostle at the flipcharts and murals that many don’t want to give up.

Participants of a meeting, standing in front of large murals.

Picture by Alan Levine on Flickr

Large walls of post-its are really very important to get a richer picture of a big project. The post-its must be placed and rearranged and ‘connected’ and voted for. And some participants seem to love this — not unlike the jostle at a Cold Buffet. Some temperaments seem to flourish here and they win through. I really wonder if this personality issue is stronger or the technical issue:

The technical callenge is: How does a large mural full of post-its fit on a projector? When you zoom-in so much that you can read the small print (as the participants standing at the mural can) the famous overview gets lost. But shouldn’t such a technical issue be solved by today? Watch my proof of concept and if you want to try it out for yourselves on the demo site please contact me to get an authentication (it does not work unauthenticated, sorry).


I particularly love Saskia’s other points: “more preparation time” (when going by rail), and that it works if all participants do so. If some participants are better prepared but the majority disrespect the meeting so much that they don’t dedicate more time for it than a hectic flight, then usually everybody will still have to listen to unnecessary repetitions. Because those who feel ‘too important’ to invest their time in preparation, usually demand some ‘short summary’, and even more time is being wasted.

The context of the Tweet (domestic flights to our capital Berlin) reminded me of the eighties when the train to Berlin took me nine hours, and when we cobbled together the German parts of the internet. Meetings were often in Berlin (before it became capital), and valuable thoughts were often exchanged in the late-night bar sessions of those who arrived the day before — because they were not flying — and were better prepared.

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3 Responses to More online meetings, less short-distance flights

  1. Cog.Dog says:

    Is it really the jostle they miss? I think more it’s the proximity, and no matter how much you can use chat in online meetings, for many, it feels rather isolated. Still, I am fully on board with the advantage of online meetings over the human and environmental costs of travel.

    The whiteboard tool is nifty to see again, especially as I recognize user names in it. How do people take to using it?


  2. x28 says:

    Thank you Alan for your interest and your encouragement. Yes, proximity sounds plausible, and chat cannot replace audio.

    I did not understand your point about user names. You can use one user name for all test ‘participants’ (on different browsers or devices). Not many people have tested it yet.

    For trying my prototype, I created a guest account for you as a normal read-only guest on my support blog. There should be an email from wordpress shortly, and another one from me with explanations.


  3. Pingback: Remote work (repeated) | x28's new Blog

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