Not Every Meeting Has to Be On Video: How We Meet at ModSquad

Why audio meetings rule and why we hope the future of audio meetings includes High Fidelity’s Spatial Audio.

Q: How do you spot someone new at ModSquad? 
A: They’re the only person in the meeting with their camera on.

When folks hear we’re a distributed company, they naturally assume we collaborate via video of some sort.  

And we do… sometimes. 

For example, when it comes to communicating with clients, we use whatever tool works best for them.

But for internal communication, we prefer audio calls.

There’s a good reason for this. We’ve been working remotely for a very, very long time. In fact, we’ve been a primarily distributed company since we started back in 2007. That’s way before we had the video tools or the broadband speeds we have now. Audio was pretty much the only game in town. Pretty much…

Before we talk more about audio meetings — and the future of audio meetings, in particular — let’s take a step back and talk about our runner up.

Our Second Favorite Way to Meet: Virtually

We don’t do this as often as we once did, but we still love it. Meeting virtually is in our DNA. After all, this company was started in Second Life at the Thirsty Tiger. Until very recently when our landlord retired their sim, we had an office in Knightsbridge in virtual London. And we still own an island in Second Life where we have our annual party to kick off our annual Extra Life charity event. Even our sales team thought one way to upgrade conferences during the pandemic was to make them virtual.

If you’re looking for a way for your distributed team to meet informally or socialize, give virtual a try.

Audio Calls Rule

But our favorite way to meet is the good ol’ audio call. It’s simple. It’s low bandwidth. It dramatically reduces the number of things you need to worry about: the lighting, the camera angle, the unfolded laundry tucked into the corner. 

Audio just gets the job done.

Of course video calls have their charms. We love seeing the errant child or pet walk into view. We love getting that peek into our colleagues’ home and seeing the books on their shelves, the art on their walls, and their unfolded laundry tucked into the corner. 

The additional context video provides can be useful. You can see who is talking if you don’t know folks by voice. You can read lips or body language if something is unclear. But that utility has a cost. No, we’re not going to talk about “Zoom fatigue.” All we know is that most of the time we don’t need the extra context video provides, especially if we’re communicating internally with folks we know.

Besides, it feels like audio is having a moment right now. Who would have expected in this video age that podcasts would continue to grow in popularity and the hottest new social network is just a bunch of voice channels with people talking?

The Buggles were wrong then and they’re still wrong now. Video hasn’t killed the radio star.

Ok, We Admit We Like Screen Sharing, Too

While we don’t feel the need to put our faces on camera often, we appreciate the ability to share a screen. There’s no faster way to ensure we’re all on the same page than by literally looking at the same digital page.

If you’re screen sharing in Slack in a meeting with our CEO, she’s definitely going to use the draw tool.

You’ve been warned.

The Future of Audio, We Hope

Honestly, we never thought much about improving audio calls. If you can hear the person and the line is clear, an audio call is just an audio call. Right?

That’s what we thought until we heard High Fidelity’s spatial audio demos. In a nutshell, spatial audio presents sound the way we hear it in real life: in three dimensions. It’s easier to hear than to explain. Here’s the live demo environment you can explore. And here’s a demo of how spatial audio can improve a Zoom meeting.

It’s not surprising to us that Philip Rosedale, the guy behind Second Life, is the guy behind enriching audio spaces. He’s spent a career figuring out novel ways for people to connect online. We’re big fans.

Of course, spatial audio makes sense for things like gaming, movies, and concerts. But it makes a difference for meeting and collaboration, too.

High Fidelity claims that spatial audio is more realistic, more immersive, and it improves clarity. After checking out the demos, we couldn’t agree more. Hearing your colleagues in the space around you makes the conversation feel friendlier. It makes the meeting feel like a property of a group, rather than a mere collection of voices. And it fixes the worst part of our audio meetings — the clipping and confusion when more than one person talks at once. With spatial audio, it’s much easier to navigate a meeting when everyone wants to weigh in. It’s great.

The funny thing is, we didn’t realize what we were missing until we heard the demos. Go on and give it a listen and see what you think.

So all you communication companies out there, we hope you hear us loud and clear. Let’s get some High Fidelity Spatial Audio in your tools. 

That’s how we hope to meet in the future.

[Talk to you soon (hopefully spatially)],

P.S. Confession: We also hope Dennis Duffy is right about beepers making a comeback.

“Technology is cyclical.” — The Beeper King.

This entry was posted in Best Practices. Bookmark the permalink.

Talk Back

Posted on May 16, 2021

This made me LOL, literally! Because it’s very true. 🙂 But we LOVE it. “If you’re screen sharing in Slack in a meeting with our CEO, she’s definitely going to use the draw tool. You’ve been warned.”

Get On Your Soapbox