‘Tis the gift giving season. For the OEMers and resellers of audio-, web- and videoconferencing equipment their presents have come early thanks (unwittingly) to the U.S. and Canadian governments.
For their actions have pushed adoption and use of video especially to their tipping points where they start to become the norm in business but even in consumer personal interactions.
For if air travel weren’t a nightmare already what with painfully cramped seating, made worse by salt-laden food at airport concessionaires (airline food was for the most part remarkably healthy with sensibly controlled portions), long delays, frequent cancellations, high fares and other examples of lousy service…and if going through security wasn’t a hassle and humiliating enough…now there are the intimate “pat downs” that the overworked and customer-abused American and Canadian personnel have to inflict on fliers when the computers tell them to.
This procedure may well be the last straw for travelers and organizations that are already fed up with travel. Enough.
I suspect that for many travelers and their families even the thought of having their most private parts of their bodies and those they love—like their 80-year old grandmother--being “checked out” is enough to make them cry “Skype”…and start searching for conferencing equipment and services.
The public-perceived creepiness of this screening procedure cannot be underestimated. Is it really worth it any more flying to a business meeting or a conference or taking a trip to see family –on top of all of the other issues with that form of travel--when there is the spectre of being de facto groped in the name of national security?
The policy of patting-down airline passengers is an admission of failure by American and Canadian authorities. The only people who are truly happy are the terrorists for the practices demonstrate in the most humiliating fashion possible that they have won by succeeding in limiting our freedoms.
Pat-downs are security fig leaves. They demonstrate an obscene failure of intelligence-gathering, analysis, reporting and action: just like what had happened prior to 9-11… If a terrorist has gotten as far as arriving at the scanning devices with C4 packed into their crotch it is already too late because their plans have been advanced to the point of execution.
The British, French, Irish, Spanish and of course the Israeli authorities who have been dealing with terrorism and along with this human and other smuggling for many years must be smirking at their American and Canadian counterparts. Here’s another example: if you take Amtrak to cross into Canada you must be screened either at a 20 minute-30 minute stop at the border (for Montreal or Toronto trains) or at the terminal (Vancouver). To go to the U.S. on the train requires screening at the border, plus pre-screening at Vancouver.
Yet there is swift but effective on-board examination on French-Spanish and Northern Ireland-Irish Republic trains despite the years of violence in which the rail systems themselves have been targets. On-board examinations occurred on U.S.-Canada trains in the 1950s and 1960s and early 1970s during the Korean Conflict, Vietnam and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Go figure.
On the subject of rail the new GOP-controlled House plus several new state administrations are naturally enough driving more people to conferencing solutions by promising to derail the Obama Administration’s plans to expand passenger trains: which are far more comfortable and do not—at this point—require arduous boarding procedures. Their “answer” is more highways—the same “solution” that led the country into the high-tax, environment (and individual)-killing, productivity-crippling (via congestion—new roads become clogged 4-5 years after building) and community-destroying mess it now is in. One that threatens to leave the nation’s economy even more dependent than it now is on the less stable parts of the world for energy or on obscenely-destructive sources like the Canadian tar sands. And unlike taking public means of transportation, working while driving is deadly and unlawful.
Canadians are not much better. The country has “higher” i.e. 95 mph tops rail and that only on short sections between Montreal and Toronto on a corridor that stretches from Windsor (opposite Detroit) to Quebec. There hasn’t been passenger rail between Edmonton-Calgary, Alberta: the second largest travel corridor since 1981. And only the Obama Administration officials screaming at their Canadian counterparts saved at the last minute in October the second Seattle-Vancouver, B.C. passenger train that operates on the Administration-designated Cascades high-speed rail corridor that begins in Eugene, Oregon. Canada was balking at absorbing $800,000/year in Customs costs—costs that it regularly sucks in for the others modes as does the U.S. for all travelers. This in the face of the U.S. federal and Washington and Oregon state governments paying for most of the capital investments and all of the operating subsidies on the trains, with Canada getting a practically free ride.
Not that the conferencing solutions are free from hassles, witness the Skype outage, and they do take getting used to if one is setting, moderating and conducting meetings via them. Video-to-the-desktop conferencing technology, especially to the home and to mobile devices, is where VoIP was at six years ago but as demand climbs so will the improvements while costs will drop.
Yes, nothing beats face-to-face especially for non-work interactions. After all: there are practical limits to what one can do over the voice/video interface—though one can argue as do the science/speculative-fiction writers that what our brains perceive and act on is based on electrochemical inputs and outputs.
Even so, when faced with the possibility having one’s dignity stripped away—on top of all the other humiliations and the costs and hassles—the benefits of being there in-person as opposed to being there virtually fade even quicker for an increasing number of engagements.