Shitty webcams, a rant

Since the beginning of 2020 the way we work has changed dramatically - especially in our business. Video calls and meetings have become a big part of everyone's everyday work.

Building relationships with your coworkers happens through conversations not text messages. Working out a solution to a hard problem on a whiteboard, pair programming or simply talking about random stuff while code is compiling or getting coffee is how you get to know your coworkers. A lot of the reason why this is, is that we are hardwired to be social by evolution. And because social groups have been necessary for our survival for millenia we have become really good at subconciously reading nonverbal cues when interacting with other humans.

These microexpressions and subtle body language cues last fractions of a second but because we pick up on them subconsiously, we don't realize it when they're missing - all we register is a bit less trust and kinship with the people we interact with. This is what happens when we talk to people over Teams or Zoom with a webcam. Seconds of lag, lack of eye contact, bad resolution, unnatural camera angles and glitchy sound all works against creating and maintaing relationships with the people we interact with over the internet.

A good webcam isn't very expensive but it can minimize a lot of the issues mentioned. The vastly growing streaming industry in the last few years have pushed manufacturers to make really good cameras and microphones. 1080P video at 60 frames pr. second makes a colossal difference in how the person you are talking to experiences you.

It might be acceptable to have a bad webcam if you only occationally have to meet with people you also work or meet with physically.

But imagine this, you are invite a potential client to your office, but instead of taking them to a nicely lit meeting room where you can sit as equals around a table, you take them into the server room where the fans make it difficult to hear each other, and you sit your potential client on the floor while you get a chair, so they have to interact with you from a completely unnatural angle. You might even speak into the wall or out of the window instead of looking each other in the eye. How well would that meeting go?

For me, meeting with someone that has a shitty webcam feels like that - it is unprofessional and it sends a signal that you don't care about the person with whom you are communicating. It only amplifies the feeling that you don't give a damn, when you look at the price of a good webcam. Something like $99 for a Logitech StreamCam, is probably what you spend on cake, coffee and lunch on a single client you invite to your company for a meeting, so just spend the damn money and send the signal that you are a serious professional! Or even cheaper, get a phone mount for your monitor and software to use the excellent camera in your phone as a webcam.

Mikkel Secher

Mikkel Secher