RSS Feed

Conferencing for Free


 Two posts  caught my eye today and both come together beautifully in this pic which I took during my recent  South African R&R. Among all the things that constantly take me by surprise there, the complete ease with which a so-called Third World country has taken to technology is one of the ones that surprises me most. I had just been pampered and stroked and gelled and waxed and moisturised and buffed in one of those hushed darkened emporia that pander to the increasing fear of ageing that seems to have taken hold of the world: not that I felt in anyway that my daughter had given me a voucher for “the works” because she thinks I need some attention in that department. But on with my tale. I emerged all fragrant and glowing from said emporium and drifted waftingly down to the nearest coffee place which, importantly, had FREE WiFi (another growing market to supply endlessly engaging forms of caffeine and connectivity to pander to the increasing fear of “not getting enough done” that is equally getting a grip on the world.) As I sat there in my lavender mist, leisurely stirring the chocolate into the foam, this somewhat jagged and frazzled woman  arrived with what can only be described as – well – A Very Big Bag. Because she was displacing a lot of air and bashing into things with The Very Big Bag, I was drawn to watching her. And this is what unfolded:

Frazzled woman chooses a table at the entrance of the coffee place, near the passing parade and, with an exaggerated sigh, dumps The Very Big Bag on the table. She then began, Mary Poppins-style, to extract from the Bag a COMPLETE Apple Mac desktop ensemble – big screen, full-sized keyboard, mouse and mouse pad (see pic). She then unfurled metres of cable and went noisily in search of a plug point.  The whole “assembling of peripherals and switching on” performance then took place – with more and more people in the coffee shop beginning to take an interest. A waiter had been hovering patiently during much of this process – coffee shop service in South Africa is of the “good” and “table” variety – ready to take frazzled woman’s order. Not this lady, thank you. After waving him away imperiously and she rearranged the surrounding area so she could sit comfortably at what was by now obviously “her workspace”. As her Mac sprang into life, she rummaged in The Very Big Bag and pulled out – and this is the lovely bit – a Thermos flask and mug. She poured herself a coffee and helped herself to the sugar on the table.  She then extracted from the Bag, a box in which was a huge piece of carrot cake. Scanning around for a suitable receptacle for the cake was unsuccessful, so she called the dismissed waiter back and asked for a plate and a spoon. (Isn’t this just fantastic!) By this time I had become so intrigued, I ordered lunch so that I could legitimately continue to sit there and watch. I took this pic too of course ( Thank you, phone cameras, or the opportunity to share this with you all would have lost some of its punch) and, being somewhat nosey, I asked the waiter who had brought over my salad, if the lady was the owner of the coffee shop. There could be no other explanation, I believed in my naivety.

“No,” came back the reply, she was a customer.

 “Ah!”, I said, nodding as understanding dawned, “she must come here a lot.”

“No,” came back the reply once more, she had never been there before.

And then she started to talk and the computer spoke back. I – and the rest of the coffee shop’s bona fide customers  – were riveted. This woman was having a video conference! Right there! In the coffee shop! Using their free WiFi! And  their Electricity! And she hadn’t even bought so much as a cup of coffee!

Now I agree to an extent with David’s post about having to pay for presenting at a conference –  but stuff costs money – even free WiFi costs somebody something somewhere along the line. Perhaps those costs can be absorbed by charging extra for (other people’s!) coffee, but perhaps they can’t be absorbed and by asking all who attend to contribute, especially jagged, frazzled people with Very Big Bags, is the fairest way of sharing the cost.

And of course, using bcnpaul1‘s idea, this will be the subject pic of a lesson this week – subjects that hopefully will emerge: technology, video-conferencing, coffee, being connected all the time and possibly ethics of some sort or another .


2 responses »

  1. I dread to think what she’d have done if she’d caught you taking her picture. Another trip to the emporia.

  2. Can you imagine! I wanted to do a close up with my wickedy wicked new Panasonic, but thought I had better not risk it. In fact my daughter took the photo with her phone – I was too scared!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: