by Bob Leonard
We did it to replace an in-person event where I was going to present Moving to a Finite Earth Economy and do a book signing. Of course, it was cancelled. So we planned a Zoom event. Until then, we had only used Zoom for meetings with a specific, small group of invited individuals.
Mistake #1 – imagining a larger turnout and attendees from around the globe (my “making lemonade” improvement over an in-person event in Portland), I foolishly posted the Zoom link on Twitter. I have since learned that a simple search for “Zoom.us” on Twitter brings up multiple links to meetings, which anyone can then use to join.
Mistake #2 – because we are all self-isolating, the moderator and myself were in different locations, so I shared my screen to the host’s Zoom session. Unwittingly, the door was left open to intruders. She has since learned to adjust screen sharing and annotation settings for participants, to keep the door locked.
Seconds after I shared my screen we were inundated with swastikas drawn on my slides, a young man’s voice taunted us with the N word, he shared video of a woman stripping, and photos of the KKK. Because we are new to the technology, we didn’t know how to quickly recover, so we shut the call down.
It’s embarrassing and awkward to have a business conference call interrupted. If a Zoom-bomber has slipped into your conference, it is a simple two-click process for them to take over the call and to show whatever. In this particular case, fortunately, it was all seasoned adults on the call. Less naïve now, we pick ourselves up and keep learning new, smarter ways to stay connected.
This is the new COVID-19 reality: If you are using Zoom without the right precautions, you are vulnerable to “Zoom-bombing”. You might not have heard the term before, but with the rise of at-home work meetings, virtual classes, and online social gatherings, telepresence usage is sky-rocketing. And whenever something becomes popular, there will always be some people who get a cheap thrill from disrupting it.
Zoom-bombing can happen to anyone, but you can reduce your risk. Zoom has written a blog including tips on how to protect your digital meeting place.
Here’s a statement from Zoom: “We have been deeply upset to hear about the incidents involving this type of attack. For those hosting large, public group meetings, we strongly encourage hosts to change their settings so that only the host can share their screen.”
The “waiting room” is another useful tool where a host can allow in only those people on a preassigned register. For extra security, users can and should set up a password entry system.
Zoom-bombing makes us feel vulnerable in an already unstable time, but we have these wonderful communication tools. We are highly motivated to use these new ways to connect.
There’s another new Zoom phenomenon, I call getting “Zoomed Out”. That’s what happens when you’ve spent several hours on different video calls throughout the day, and just cannot put in your ear buds and do another.
We will learn to discern… just like most of us have done with in-person meetings. “Is it really necessary that I attend? Will I be adding to the discussion or just absorbing the information?” A perusal of the notes after the meeting might suffice.
For many of us, Zoom has become integral to our social life, and we won’t stop chatting with friends and family. We just need to make the calls secure for everyone (especially small children who may be participating).
I attended a friend’s wedding on Zoom last weekend… one I would not have attended if I had to fly the 3,000 miles to get there. I have heard of funerals on Zoom. Which makes me wonder, how many of these new behaviors will remain post-virus? Will wedding videographers add Zoom and funeral coverage to their portfolio of services?
How will this affect the way companies run their businesses? Will we return to traveling for business and pleasure like we used to? Will working from home become the norm?
I don’t know exactly what’s coming. I do know that our world will be different post-Covid, and in many ways it will be a lower carbon footprint world. That’s a step on the way to a post-growth world – a necessary component of effectively addressing our climate crisis.
Like it or not, this is the situation we are in. Teleconferencing is the new norm. It’s going to be lonely for my fellow Boomers who don’t adapt… including learning how to safeguard against hackers.