4047 Cisco's Webex and the most thoughtful, disturbing feature you've ever seen
Cisco's Webex and the most thoughtful, disturbing feature you've ever seen

Cisco's Webex and the most thoughtful, disturbing feature you've ever seen

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A new power, one of verbal life and death.

Screenshot by ZDNet

You may love meetings or not.

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I feel sure, however, that you generally have your own meeting strategy.

Are you someone who likes to listen, then occasionally interject? Or are you the sort who can turn a meeting with the sheer force of your charismatic tones? Or perhaps you just play solitaire while it’s happening?

Please let me tell you that your meeting life — perhaps your very meeting persona — may soon enjoy a radical shift.

You see, Cisco’s Webex, the fine product with the less than fine advertising, is experimenting with giving meeting organizers an astonishing power: limiting how long each participant can speak.

No longer can your head of sales smooth their way through sickly patter for endless minutes. No longer can your CMO experiment with knitting together a shawl of buzzwords, in order to make everyone feel as if they’re not down with marketing speak.

And no longer can the vastest ego in the virtual room — often simply referred to as the self-regarding male — cut across the words of others as if he has a sword and the others are merely uttering butter.

Lorrissa Horton, vice president and general manager of Webex Calling and Strategy at Cisco, told Protocol: “We’ve been doing testing on that because it is a very large social change.”

To which some might interpolate: “Why, yes it is. And perhaps even a welcome one.”

Horton explained that even in regular update meetings, where everyone is supposed to have an equal amount of time to offer their news, “many times certain people in that conversation never get a chance to speak or they’re given the last 10 seconds.”

Some might enjoy those ten seconds, as they really don’t want everyone else to know what they’re doing. Many, though, would appreciate being offered equal treatment.

It would be wanton not to mention one or two tiddly potential drawbacks.

Sample: I really don’t like the procurement manager. Ergo, I give him 43.2 seconds to speak and he should be grateful.

Deeper consequence: Just as at the Oscars, the junior financial controller may have elegant thoughts to offer. Suddenly the characteristic get-off music tunes in. (Or, as I suppose Cisco is proposing, they’re simply muted.)

Doesn’t that seem rude? What if the other meeting participants rebel? Do they have a signal for “No! Let Them Speak!”?

Then again, haven’t you always wanted to actually shut up some of those about whom you mutter in your head: “Oh, do shut up.”?

Haven’t you dreamed of the power to run a meeting more fairly, more efficiently and with the ability to shut up every product manager you’ve ever met?

Cisco admits that reactions to its experiment haven’t been universally laudatory.

Oh, Cisco, shut the whiners up. I know you have the technology.


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