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Let's make Zoom weird

I’ve been working remotely since 2016. That means I’ve attended well over a thousand Zoom* calls, and I am here to tell you they are nowhere near as weird as they should be.

People are weird, a fact that tends to come through during in-person interactions. As for Zoom calls … they’re a great way to collaborate across time zones and without transmitting an airborne vascular disease. But they mute our natural weirdness in a tragic way.

I say “tragic” because (a) I’m a naturally dramatic person and (b) we have the tools to bring unparalleled levels of weirdness to Zoom calls. But using them requires some study, some practice, and a willingness to stand out from the other squares on the screen.

Specifically: With a bit of training, you can use the free, open source software OBS to enhance and/or replace that default video feed of you, sitting uncomfortably at your desk. You can add overlays, text and images, switch to a pre-recorded video, layer in sound effects or background music, and apply filters to make your camera look grainy, or old school Olan Mills™ sepia tone.

Why bother? How about: because you can, because it might be fun, because just showing up to a meeting can become a form of weird art, because … you’re probably going to attend a thousand more calls and you might as well mix it up a bit.

I’m a novice at this software, and candidly I’m nervous about how people will react to my attempts to do anything outside the norm. So I’m looking for a few friends willing to form a little community of practice around this concept—meet up every couple weeks, show off what we’ve learned about OBS, talk about what we’ve tried, how it went, and our new ideas for making Zoom weird.

If you’re interested in joining, hit Reply on any email I’ve ever sent you. (If I’ve never sent you an email, you can sign up below to change that.)

*Or Meet, or Teams, or BlueJeans, etc.—everything in this manifesto applies to whatever video conferencing platform you’re using.

    © 2024 Brian David Hall