January

January 2014 - What is the difference between a selfie and a professional video conference?

In 2012, Time Magazine chose the word “selfie” as one of the top ten buzzwords of the year.  The year after, it was officially entered into the Oxford dictionary, a dictionary that is considered the most comprehensive and reliable for the English language. It was even chosen by the dictionary editors as the word of the year.
 
A selfie is a self-portrait, generally taken with a digital camera or a smartphone camera. In fact, the first self-portrait was taken over 150 years ago by an American photographer, and an amateur self-portrait was first taken over 100 years ago with a camera and a mirror.
 
Taking selfies became popular as the technology used to take them developed. First, cameras became small enough to be carried around, then the self-timer feature was added (remember leaving the camera on a rock and racing to get into the frame in time?) and then the advent of digital cameras and cameras included in mobile phones.
Social networking entered our lives first as a technological development but mainly as a cultural development.  This made selfies even more popular to the phenomena that we are witness to now.
The most famous selfie was taken not long ago by three of the most important world leaders, US President Barak Obama, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and the British Prime Minister David Cameron. The picture was taken by them with a smartphone at the memorial for the South African leader, Nelson Mandela.
By the way, one of the most obvious characteristics of a selfie is the slight distortion of the face, or the lack of uniform resolution of the picture. These happen because these are amateur pictures and the camera is being held by the photographer himself, who tries to hold the camera as far away from his face as possible in order to get the best result. In a video conference (when not used properly) there is a similar effect when the camera is located above the face, or the “pig nostril” effect, when the camera is below face level.
 
This shared effect brings me to what the title of this post means. Though a selfie is a still portrait, and in a video conference with multiple participants, there is a live video, but it is essentially, a lot of selfies, that live and breathe.
 
In fact, the improvements made in the smartphone cameras and the cultural changes that brought us social networks, are points of similarity between selfies and the world of business video conference calls.
 
On the technological side, in the past, business video conference calls were hosted only using specific video conferencing systems, with Point-to-Point ISDN technology and a later, IP. Now, we are witness to the maturation of the technology enabling the use of different devices in the same, high-quality, conference call. This technology is called video collaboration, and allows a video conference between VC systems, PCs with a webcams, tablets and smartphones. A video conference anywhere, and from any device – just like a selfie… available and easy to use.
 
On the cultural side, in the past, business people were wary of holding video conferences and if they absolutely needed to, they used specially-built conference rooms to hold these meetings. Nowadays, the technical abilities of other devices, our availability in any location and the massive use of smart devices, has made business users more ready to use their mobile cameras for a business meeting with colleagues, customers, suppliers, etc. We can take this one step further, if the users are not wary of taking a selfie and sharing it on a social network, then participating in a professional video conference becomes easier and much more trivial.
 
One more common denominator between the two is the number of actions you need to take in order to get a high-quality results – a good selfie and a good video conference. Investing some thought and effort into the proper lighting, the positioning of the camera and the right background with improve the resulting quality of both the selfie and the video conference, and will increase the satisfaction of the participants.
 
Here is a video conference with many participants using a VC system, a PC, tablet and a smartphone:
Meet you in the next post!
Nir Ronen