[act-ma] Virtual Meetings

Cole Harrison cole at masspeaceaction.org
Fri Mar 20 08:52:37 PDT 2020

So here's my story: MAPA started to use Zoom in about September.  At the
time many people just dialed in and did not bother with the video.  But now
since the social distancing started, we see that the majority of activists
are joining by video.  This makes the interaction more interesting, and
also allows screen sharing and a chat window which can help the meeting as

Zoom costs $15/month for up to 100 participants (and can pay more for 500
or 1000 participants).  You can convene meetings using the free plan, but
they cut out after 40 minutes.  When you connect to Zoom it lists a bunch
of phone numbers to try.   You install a zoom app or program on your phone
or computer.   Change the id number to your phone number to make it easy to
remember.   (As soon as coronavirus started spreading, my colleague Brian
turned to me and said " Buy Zoom stock".  He was too late - the share price
had already almost doubled.  There are not too many stocks that have gone
up this month.  When Harvard announced it was shutting down the campus a
couple of weeks ago, they mentioned that everyone was going to use Zoom for
remote learning.  Stop and think how much Harvard is paying Zoom for
that.   So far Zoom has not had capacity problems, although it has
installed additional phone lines as the original ones can be busy.
Comment: Capitalism at times can allocate resources to address problems,
just like the Chinese government can on an even larger scale)

People with laptops and smartphones can use Zoom video; the only ones who
can't are those who have desktops.  However, desktop people with no webcam
can still share their screens (i.e. for Powerpoint or for demonstrating
something on your computer, or for showing a video).  When you join or
start a conference using the Zoom app you'll see a button to share your

A few years ago I added webcams to my two desktops for $20 each, but today
I see that they not only cost at least $50 (for higher resolution, 1020p vs
720p) but also are out of stock, shipping form China and arriving in 4-6
weeks.  So that is a bit of a problem.   Here is one that claims they will
have them in stock in two weeks:
Therefore, as organizers we cannot expect everyone to be on video any time
soon though the majority will be.  As I mention above, those who don't have
a webcam can see the speakers and slides on their computer, but themselves
will only be heard, not seen, though their computer screen can be shared
with no extra equipment.

Skype and Google Hangouts, or Apple Facetime on an iPhone, are two other
free video conferencing systems, alternatives to Zoom.  As I see it there's
no difference in the technology but more in the way calls are initiated.
For Skype or Facetime you can just call someone and they pick up.  For Zoom
you schedule the call at a certain time and people have to pro-actively
call in.

Making a simple Zoom call using a laptop, smartphone, or a desktop with
webcam, you may find, as I have, that your audio is tinny, or cuts out.
(You won't notice this yourself, the people listening to you will.)  That
happens because your bandwidth is limited.  So my practice for Zoom calls
is to use internet video but make a land line phone call for the audio
portion, and I use a headset with my landline phone so I don't have to hold
the handset up to my ear.  And, I when I bought my cordless phone system a
couple of years ago, I made sure it was one that has a headphone jack --
most of them don't now because they are using bluetooth headsets instead.
(Maybe I should get with the program on that!)


On Thu, Mar 19, 2020 at 9:38 PM Charlie Welch <cwelch at tecschange.org> wrote:

> What does an event announcement list do when events are not happening
> because of the current situation?
> We hope to facilitate a discussion about how to organize events virtually.
> Today I heard the podcast of the Personal Computer Show.  Very early in the
> show there is a extended review of about a dozen conference calling
> systems.
> The Personal Computer Show was on WBAI/Pacifica in NYC for many years.
> The hosts have grown older and a little more inflexible but I think they
> did a decent job of listing and reviewing the competing systems.  The
> one thing I wished they would have explored better is the hidden costs
> to privacy of free programs.
> There are a number of reviews on line from commercial websites.  The PC
> radio show had the advantage of growing up on non-commercial radio and
> being less tainted by commercial interests.
> One of the ones they spoke favorably about towards the end is
> Zoom.
> I have had some experience as a participant with Zoom but not an
> organizer.  I've done much more with Free Conference call.  I am going to
> organize a meeting with Zoom to try that for
> Sunday.  It's only an initial assessment not a final decision.
> Zoom allows both computer/webcam participation or just phone call in.
> Another issue in the back of my mind is that there will be heavy demand
> for these services which might effect the quality.
> The link to the show is
> http://pcradioshow2.org/2020/pcrs_2020_march18.mp3
> A commercial review from PC-Magazine is linked below as point of comparison
> https://www.pcmag.com/picks/the-best-video-conferencing-software
> This is intended to kick off a discussion.  If anyone has experience with
> these systems  or has reviews to recommend you might put in your 2
> cents to move this discussion along.
> Charlie Welch
> for Act-MA
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*"Not one step back"*

Cole Harrison
Executive Director
Massachusetts Peace Action - the Commonwealth's largest grassroots peace
11 Garden St., Cambridge, MA 02138
617-354-2169 w
617-466-9274 m
Facebook: facebook.com/masspeaceaction
Twitter: masspeaceaction <https://twitter.com/masspeaceaction>

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