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August 3, 2012 / quicklychat

Why auto-answer video calls?

If you’ve ever worked remotely while the rest of your team is in the same place, you know that one of the biggest problems is that you’re out of touch on the day-to-day goings-on at work.

The kind of conversations you have at the office are very different from the kinds you have over the phone or a traditional video call. They’re much quicker (often 15-30 seconds). And sometimes they’re even zero seconds, if someone looks at you and decides it’s not a good time to talk. People use lots of physical cues to determine when it’s a good time to talk. And when someone walks up to you and decides whether you’re busy, that doesn’t require you to do anything. If you’re busy, you can just keep working while your coworker decides whether you look too busy to talk.

When your phone rings, though, you’re forced to act. A ringing phone is specifically designed to take your attention away from whatever you’re doing. Even if you’re too busy to talk, you still have to actively decide to reject the call. And that decision takes you away from whatever you’re doing. Your coworkers don’t want to interrupt you when they don’t know whether you’re busy, which is a big reason why you have more conversations when you’re in the office than when you’re a phone call away.

Traditionally, video chat has been modeled on phone calls. When someone wants to talk to you, your computer starts ringing, and you get a pop-up in the middle of your screen asking whether you want to accept or reject the conversation. You can’t even finish the word you’re typing until you decide how to handle the call. Which is a big part of the reason most people schedule video chats well in advance.

QuicklyChat, on the other hand, is modeled on the kind of interaction you have in your office. In the office, when a coworker walks up to your desk, you can see her in your peripheral vision. When someone QuicklyChats you, she appears in the corner of your screen. In the office, she can look at you and judge whether you look busy. On QuicklyChat, she can do the same. And, perhaps most importantly, if you’re available to talk, you can spend a few seconds getting to a good stopping point in your work, while if it’s not a good time, your coworker can figure that out just by looking at you. (SmartStatus should help with this, too.) That means you can finish your current thought or task before devoting mindshare to how to handle a conversation request.

Yes, this means that your coworkers can see you any time they want. Bosses could spend all day staring at their employees. But the same is true at an office. The reality is, people have better things to do at work than spend time staring at their coworkers. And QuicklyChat only allows two-way video connections, so if someone can see you, you can see them, too.

Auto-answering video calls may seem a little odd at first, but we’ve found that most people get used to it after a few conversations. Give it a try for yourself, and see how you like it.

12 Comments

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  1. Sameer Alibhai / Aug 3 2012 3:09 pm

    What if you are picking your nose and the video starts?

    • quicklychat / Aug 3 2012 4:25 pm

      Hopefully, the same thing that happens if you’re picking your nose and a coworker walks by your desk. Hopefully, they’ll just not mention it.

      • nekkid / Aug 4 2012 12:26 am

        That may be fine when you’re at an office but what about when you’re working from home and have a habit of sitting at your PC partly dressed or naked? Can you say awkward?

      • quicklychat / Aug 4 2012 3:15 pm

        Yep, that would be awkward. Despite the stereotype, though, most people who work from home aren’t actually sitting around naked all day.

        There are lots of things you can, in theory, do at home that wouldn’t be appropriate at the workplace. You can spend all day naked, or picking your nose, or playing video games.

        At QuicklyChat, we’re assuming our users have a certain level of professionalism. There’s a small industry dedicated to making sure people are working when they claim to be working. We’re not interested in that. If your company culture is so toxic that people are constantly trying to see what they can get away with, no piece of software is going to solve that problem. QuicklyChat is a tool to help people who want to be productive be more productive, not an employee-monitoring system of some sort.

        We know people working from home will take certain liberties — I know I wouldn’t wear my bunny slippers to the office, and I usually try to get something done between coming back from the gym and taking a shower — but most people at least get dressed before starting work. For the small minority of people who tend to go around as pantsless as Donald Duck, yes, please get dressed before using QuicklyChat.

  2. jonathan / Aug 3 2012 4:08 pm

    I’d love to give it a try, but most of the devs on our team use linux. When do you plan to release a linux version?

    • quicklychat / Aug 3 2012 4:27 pm

      We have a super early linux version, which doesn’t support every feature yet. It’s currently in non-public beta testing. I’ve gone ahead and sent you a link via email in case you’d like to help us test it.

  3. stephensebro / Aug 3 2012 5:39 pm

    It would make a lot more sense that you played a loud, irritating buzz voice for 1 sec before connecting – call it fair warning. I think that’ll get you over any queasiness that workers will have.

    • stephensebro / Aug 3 2012 5:40 pm

      You could also, alternatively stagger the video/audio on the callee’s side, so he sees/hears the caller, but the caller doesn’t see/hear him.

      • Jonathan Cremin (@kudoz) / Aug 4 2012 9:35 am

        This sounds like an excellent idea, call it a virtual replacement for your colleagues walk to your desk as a heads up.

  4. Thomas Devol (@vajrapani666) / Aug 3 2012 10:17 pm

    If you would like the metaphor to really be analogous to how it works in an office, then you should either have the caller slowly dissolve in or approach from a designated location. When a coworker approaches you, there are several environmental queues you pick up on to know someone is coming. Maybe its foot steps, light changes, maybe it is the reflection of them walking towards you in your monitor. It would be really cool if when a coworker moved their mouse over your contact to talk to you, you received some sort of indicator that someone might be getting ready to talk to you. If I were in an office and people simply poofed out of thin air in front of my desk, i would probably a bit startled, disrupted and unnerved at the sudden change of social contexts.

    • quicklychat / Aug 4 2012 1:28 am

      Fading in is an interesting idea. We’ve been experimenting with different ways of recreating the “footsteps” that you hear when you’re in the office. In the current version, you see an animation of a second or so before live video starts. A ding (similar to what stephensebro suggested) is a similar idea we’ve been experimenting with.

  5. user / Aug 23 2012 8:59 am

    I like your web design and art its quite simple and effective, just like quicklychat 🙂

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