The recent office teleconferencing we had Tuesday afternoon was a comic disaster. We were to log on to Sococo, which requires everyone to report to an online office, enter a virtual conference room, take a seat, and speak one's mind on the agenda at hand. There is still an option to 'chat,' i.e., to type in one's message in a chat box, privately to someone and publicly. The last time, we used Moodle, which was limited to chat mode and some voice from the client. We used it for our online medical writing lessons for several weeks.
This time, it was Murphy's Law moment through and through. It was 6 PM Manila time, with the rest around the globe adjusting. Five of us were based in Manila, wired from our respective homes. One was an Indian officer based in India. Another guy, an American, was in the main office in the US. The top boss was talking all the way from Israel.
Barely have I settled myself when my PC at home conked out on me for no reason. (Virus? Settings problem? Incompatibility? I dunno.) To think I even tested the site a few hours ago just to be sure. This is no happy-go-lucky telecommuter, no sir.
After several re-restarts proved futile, I panicked looking around for an Internet cafe. I found one after looking around the block for a few minutes. Some requisite downloading and I came back on. By then, a full thirty minutes had passed.
Mr. Israeli -- a skullcapped rabbi, by the way -- was by now busily talking with my boss, my immediate superior in Manila. I knew that from the blinking and buzzing icons that represented them: a talking head with a headset (with built-in mic) -- in various colors. But for some reason, I couldn't hear anybody. I grappled with my icon to tune in on the conversation. No dice. I remained outside the conference room, stuck in the reception lobby like a total idiot.
Soon help came my way in the form of a private pop-up chat message from one of my Manila colleagues. "Click this, then click that," she typed. She could've added, "dumbo."
A few clicks, and success! I was now at the conference table together with everybody. "Sorry I'm late. I had problems with my computer." Mr. Israeli kindly recognized me, but with a muzzled sound. "I can't hear you," I keyed in my complaint in the common chatbox. (The temerity! I should've inserted, "Pardon..") He apologized for the poor audio, via the same chat messaging.
He made some adjustment and voila, he sounded crystal-clear now. He confirmed he could hear me now from his side of the world. A couple of minutes more of discussions, and the online meet was being wrapped up with a new conference sked arranged for Wednesday, same sked. For some reason, the guy seemed to monopolize the conversation. Some other 'heads' appeared buzzing, but no sound at all.
From out of the blue, my boss's voice came on, intoning, "Oh sorry, I realized I pressed on my audio button just now." An hour had passed when the audio went on smoothly. Mercifully, it allowed us one last good thing: we could properly say our respective goodbyes.
I paid what I owed to the computer shop shaking myself awake for something I couldn't believe in: I didn't understand any of the technicalities discussed. The the clearest thing that ever happened from the transaction was the exchange of goodbyes.
The morning after, one of my colleagues was laughing her head off in Facebook. "Guess what. You haven't left the conference table yet (ever since the online meet). Dr. A. and I tried removing 'you' for minutes, to no avail. Hahaha." To which I could only reply, "OMG!"
When it was 6 PM Manila time again on Wednesday, there was a power blackout in the entire Luzon grid because of a sudden typhoon. The day's plan was canceled, to be resumed later today.
Keeping my fingers crossed I won't make a fool of myself again. Must try to figure out a way of getting my icon out of the conference table before everybody discovers I am the earliest bird this time yet turns out to be nowhere at the same time.
Meeting rescheduled for Monday, as two of our Manila colleagues remain unreachable -- no phone calls, no text messages, no emails. Must be the massive brownout resulting from some electrical posts toppling.
Meanwhile, my PC needs to be viewed remotely via TeamViewer by the IT staff to figure out what's wrong with it. Failing that, I need to reformat or defrag, which I am not confident of doing right now, even with eHow help and all.
Monday meet went on as scheduled, but with my immediate superior suddenly ecusing herself for something she must ship pronto. That leaves just three of us in Manila. Still the same problem encountered: poor to no audio. We ended up resorting to low-tech: good ole telephone calls and, later, confirmation emails.