Yes, we’re still in the thick of a pandemic. No, we haven’t seen anyone outside our immediate family for months. Yes, we’re working from home. Bit boring, isn’t it?
That means videoconferencing remains the meeting-and-socialising method du jour, and plenty of opportunities for the less computer-savvy to screw it up so we can laugh at them.
Like lawyer Rod Ponton who turned up to a hearing of Texas’s 394th Judicial District and had to tell Judge Roy Ferguson: “I’m here live. I am not a cat.” He had a kitten filter on and didn’t know how to disable it.
UK media made hay this morning, with the story leading BBC Breakfast, ITV’s Good Morning Britain, and Radio 4’s Today as mainstream outfits tie themselves in knots to bring folk news on anything other than coronavirus deaths and cases.
But it’s not just the normies who struggle. “Tech journalist can’t work tech” is a recurrent quip that bounces around the back alleys of The Register‘s Slack server whenever someone’s audio misbehaves or, worse, the pitching hack forgets to unmute themselves.
Do we jump in to let them know? Of course not, we just sit there rolling eyes into our webcams for 30 seconds or so until someone groans: “You’re muuuuuuuted.” Fortunately, no one has debased themselves so as to debug their hard drive while still on camera – but the same can’t be said for New Yorker staff writer Jeffrey Toobin. Mucky man.
Yet there is another recent vid-chat gaffe that has dodged the gimlet gaze of global news orgs, and it’s soul-destroying in a different way.
If you think 30 seconds of muted waffling is bad, spare a thought for Dong Wang, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s Department of Mathematics, who charged through his lecture for two whole hours with his mic disabled.
A YouTube video uploaded last week captures the dawning realisation that neither he nor his students will ever get that time back. Poor bloke.
Though you can hear his class breaking the bad news at the end of the session – “Uh. Hi Prof, actually you were muted all the while. So we couldn’t hear anything from you since 6:08pm” – the Malay Mail reports that students were more proactive than the average Reg staffer.
Azusa Chan, who attended the lesson, explained: “Class started at 6:00pm and he muted himself from 6:08 onwards. Students tried all sorts of things to get his attention by unmuting and even calling his phone number. However, he did not respond and continued with the lesson.”
Wang signed off by telling his charges that he will repeat the lecture at a later date.
Vaccines are glacially rolling out, virus variants are running rampant and the end of the pandemic seems as distant as ever. So long may these screw-ups continue. Just check your mic icon before you open your gob, yeah? ®