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Ben Harvey on Video Calling

Screenshot0012This week Ben Harvey, SMS Text News Senior Friday Afternoon Industry Analyst, highlights just why video calling is, in his esteemed opinion, totally doomed.

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All films have their stereotypes; these range from transplantable characters (sleazy cops, hookers with hearts of gold, sneering English villains…) to the universal truths of Hollywood, such as the fact that – by law – all bags of shopping must have a French baguette poking out of the top, and that you can see Big Ben from the windows of every flat or house in the UK.

Certain films have certain types of stereotype, specific to them, of course; guns in Action films always spit twenty times more bullets than they can actually hold; Sci-Fi films always have little video-phones in them and girls in Romantic Comedies never actually think to say “Hang on… if I’m kissing Hugh Grant, does that mean I’ve got 2nd-hand-whore-spit in my mouth?”.

Of all the above, it’s the video-phone thing that’s always bothered me. For some reason it’s always grated. Partly it’s because it’s just lazy film-making; “Wow!”, the director must think. “Warp-drive and cyborgs be damned; little televisions you can talk into! Now that’s futuristic!”. The fact that Lady Penelope had one in her übercamp Rolls Royce should have been enough to discredit them entirely, but apparently not. Iconic, powerful, monumental films, from Blade Runner to Aliens, from 2001 to Back to the Future all feature them, and with a heritage like that, shouldn’t we all be scrabbling to get a piece of this incredible technology in our homes, as soon as we can…?

Consider this – we can all do it with the handsets we have now. But why don’t we want to?

You need three things – you need a device capable of sending data. You need a device which can capture sound and images. And you need the person you’re calling to have a similar bit of kit. And we’ve all got that. Handsets have progressed to the stage whereby the only phones that don’t have a video-facility are either owned by your parents or, alternately, are the ones given away free in Christmas Crackers. For over a year or two it’s been a ripe, fertile, fecund environment for such calls to take off.

Shame it’s all a load of bollocks, then, isn’t it.

(Note: ‘Fecund’ = ‘Productive’… I had to look that one up – Ewan)

Video-calls aren’t used in this country for the very simple reason that they take the basic point of phone-calls (swapping information or gossip) and turn it into a nightmare ordeal of idiocy, insecurity, inconvenience and irritation (I was considering chucking “ignominy” in there as well, but, rather like the word “love”, I’m still not certain what it means).

This is obviously galling for the legions of network executives that are desperately trying to think of ways to make this cash-cow more popular. These poor saps trudge to work every day, sit in their offices and stare blankly at their monitors, all the while thinking “The bandwidth! The bandwidth!”, but getting nowhere. They’re on a hiding to nothing. They’re flogging a dead horse. They’re doomed to public humiliation and disgrace, much like the last time I went speed-dating.

The ignominy! The ignominy!

Anyway, if you are one of those failure-haunted network executives, here are the basic reasons why you’re an idiot. With a bit of luck they’ll make you snap out of it and go and do something rather more useful, like standing at traffic lights, cleaning windshields.

Because you don’t want to do you hair to order a pizza
Let’s face it. This is the big one. Humans are precious little things; very vain, we are, and always wanting to put a nice gloss on things. We primp and preen and cover and flaunt and this all takes time. It takes effort. Admittedly, men have it a little easier than women, in that my morning ritual consists of shaving and brushing my teeth, both of which I do in the shower. Women have that whole mystic alchemy of cosmetics, though, and that does take time and effort, and artistry none of which you really want to go through when you just want a flat-crust double-Pepperoni.

The logic goes: video calls mean the other fella sees my face. I don’t like it when my face doesn’t look pretty. Therefore I don’t like video calls.

You might misdial, and call a nudist
When dealing with naked people, I find that it’s often the case that if your finger slips, and your digit doesn’t hit their button, they can often get upset and, often, a little frustrated. For some reason they don’t like getting out of bed – or the bath – when some greasy double-glazing salesman has entered their figure incorrectly.

Carry-On/Oh-Matron entendres aside, it’s a perennial* problem that people call you when you don’t want them to. Never mind, with a video call, that you’re having a bad-hair day – if you’re mincing around with no keks on then you’re rapidly in a world of pain. Newsreaders can confidently sit, under the harsh studio lights, with no trousers on but you try doing that in the office, and see how far you get…

*perhaps perineum, in the circumstances…

The only winning move is not to play
Girls like looking down on other girls – this is a fact. Boys also like it when girls look down on them, although a podium, a pole, and a lack of clothing are often caveat to that one.

I don’t think I’d be in any danger of getting nominated for the Sexist of the Year award if I were to opine that females are more predisposed to males to pick up, and pick upon, the nuances of clothing and style. Many of my female friends, when not busy arranging restraining orders on me, do state that – at work – the telephone is a great leveller. You can talk to anyone, anywhere, and not have to worry about whether or not your shoes are too old, or whether he’s going to be staring at your tits anytime soon, or whether or not you were wearing the same top to the last meeting.

Playing devil’s advocate, of course (as opposed to Devil’s Advocaat, which is a disgusting cocktail, drunk only by the disgusting, disgusting Dutch), this is the one good thing about video calls; your eyelines are hidden. Well…less hidden, more buried. Usually buried in cleavage.

It would cost you £500 in special-effects make-up to throw a sickie
“Yeah… yeah, it’s Ben. No. No, I don’t think I can make it in today – I think my pancreas has exploded… Yeah, there is a lot of it going around, isn’t there…”.

…I’d like to thank the Academy…

You call into work normally, with a spurious excuse, and whether or not you’re believed depends entirely upon the croakiness, inflection, pitch and tone of your voice, along with any other coughs, splutters or ambulance-sirens you want to embellish things with.

And that’s fine. It’s the way things have been done since Alexander Graham Bell took the first phone call in history from his assistant, Thomas Watson:

“Ahoy-hoy? Hello, Alex? Yeah. It’s Tom. Look, sorry, but I can’t come in to make the first phone call. I think I’m coming down with something…”

I mean, god – you’d have to be in your own home to phone in sick, lest they wonder why your house suddenly looked like it was your girlfriend’s/looked like a pub/looked like a police-station.

No more calling in sick to work? BAN THIS EVIL FILTH NOW!!!

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You can read more of Ben Harvey’s industrial analytics, EXCLUSIVELY on SMS Text News here!


  1. Others have pointed out the main reason being a desire not to be looking up someone’s nostrils, as the comfy way to hold the phone is at hip-height looking down.

    Me personally? My fav why-videocalling-is-doomed reason is that unless you are locked in a sound-proof room or your car, you need an earpiece to conduct the call as videocalls use the speaker by default for audio. You know, the whole ear-next-to-the-phone thing?

    Rule of thumb: you only videocall someone you’d be happy to see you in your pajamas….or not in your pajamas, if you get my drift.

    Hence the market is confined to travelling parents calling their kids to say goodnight, and the ‘Operators make loads of ca£h but don’t shout about it’ premium adult videocall market. Which I believe makes up 99.9% of videocall volume.

  2. “Hence the market is confined to travelling parents calling their kids to say goodnight…”

    Obviously not through my own personal experience but I’ve heard that the market also includes blokes calling their girlfriends to say ‘goodnight’ too…


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