Carl T. Holscher fights for the customers.

Tag: tools Page 1 of 2

Zoom tips to stay in control

Zoom has become the operating system for life in the last two years. It’s how we worked and visited and saw other humans. It’s how children learned and government worked. It’s where happy hours met and families visited.

I spent a lot of time on Zoom everyday for work. We don’t call, we Zoom. If it needs more than text, we Zoom. If there’s any chance we’ll need to share a screen to troubleshoot or discuss a new feature, we Zoom. Even if we’re just using the audio, we Zoom.

Zoom has become our main channel for communication. It’s computer audio is rock solid, it works on every platform (somewhere Webex stumbles for our Linux users). It’s reliable and it’s ready to roll.

I was thinking about some tips I have for using Zoom. They’re not the typical questions you see everyone online covering. How do I sound better? Get yourself a good headset and use it. How do I look better on camera? Lighting and camera positioning.

I have two tips I’ve not seen mentioned elsewhere that I have used since I became a Zoom native.

First, don’t let Zoom open until you’re ready. I’ve clicked your link. I’m ready to join. I make sure Zoom waits for permission to open.

Zoom asking permission to open

I do this because I want control over when Zoom opens and I am available to others. I also want to have control over Zoom opening in the application or in the browser window. Sometimes I need to have multiple sessions open at once. Most of the time I want to connect to Zoom as an intentional act.

Second, Zoom doesn’t get my audio until I’m absolutely ready.

Zoom asking for audio.

I have never allowed Zoom to automatically connect to audio. Once I open Zoom and it’s connecting me, I take the extra step to join the audio. This allows me to prepare myself and run through my mental checklist.

Headset on. ✓

Am I muted? ✓

Is my video off? ✓

I don’t like surprises and I want to be in control instead of hoping the software does the right thing. These are two things I’ve done to allow me to stay in control of my Zoom life for the past two years.

Left Touchpad Keyboard

What I want.

Where I want it.

Practice > Tools

Tools aren’t important, it’s the practice that makes good content.

From Warren Ellis

My problem with this emerging narrative is that doing a podcast is a relatively low-tech, cheap enterprise. Beg or borrow a microphone and a laptop. Use a smartphone and earbuds with a mic. Process in something free like Audacity or Garageband. Look at apps like Opinion or Anchor before spending real money on Libsyn or a WordPress front end. It can be easier than you think. If you have something to say or do and audio is your thing, don’t dismiss podcasting just because other people are telling you it’s becoming professionalised.

Figure out what you want to do. Pre-record three episodes and upload them all at once as your launch. Keep it simple, always. Get things out into the world. And then tell me about them, please. Thank you.

I saw the excerpt from Warren Ellis’ newsletter on Twitter earlier and it made me think about a similar post I saw.

The tools aren’t important. Practice is important.

Can I get a jump?

Sunday was a long day. My wife and I had walked around Niagara Falls on the Canadian side all day. We covered about 15 miles and explored the immediate area on foot.

We visited a casino (a great place for a free Coke and some relief from the heat). We went through a haunted house that didn’t result in a single jump scare. And I spook easily. We went through the Guinness World Record museum. It was a total bust. We saw room after room of plaques talking about the world records, but very little in the way of art or artifacts from those records.

We went through a wooden maze. I don’t know why I agreed to it. They always look fun. But given my inability to navigate around my neighborhood, I don’t know why I think places where I’m purposefully lost would be fun. That’s my entire life!

The highlight of the day may have been the Niagara SkyWheel. A huge Ferris Wheel that towers 175 feet over the area. From the SkyWheel we were able to see Niagara Falls from a whole different perspective. It was neat seeing the attractions from the sky.

Niagara Falls from the SkyWheel
After exploring the area, and doing our part to give to the local economy, we returned to our car. It was getting dark and we wanted to rest our feet before the evening’s fireworks.

As we approached the quickly emptying field-turned-parking lot, I was flagged down by two older men. They asked in a thick Indian accent if I had jumper cables. I did. I always have jumper cables. Ever since I got my first car and was given jumper cables for it, I’ve dutifully kept them at the ready.

I spun the car around, hooked up the cables and got their car going for them on the first try. They thanked me profusely and we parted ways.

My wife asked the question I had thought too, “Who goes on a trip out-of-state without jumper cables?” A better question. Who drives around without jumper cables at all?

This is the third time this year I’ve jumped someone who did not have cables. And each time I find it curious. How can you not have jumper cables? If I’m stranded in a parking lot, especially in a place foreign to me, relying on the help of strangers, I’m going to surely have the one tool I need to do the job.

If you do not have jumper cables right this very moment, stop reading and go buy these. They are $11.10 with free Prime shipping on Amazon. Go buy them. Put them in your car. Stick them next to your spare tire.

For bonus credit, go buy a Juno Jumpr. This lovely little brick will charge your gadgets and jumpstart your car. Buy the brick, keep it in your bag to make sure your phone has power and use it to get your car going .

Sure, it is expensive to buy these things. Not jumper cables, there is no excuse for not having jumper cables. But there are other expensive tools. But when you need them, they’re worth every penny you paid for them.

Be prepared. Don’t rely on the kindness and preparedness of strangers. Be the good Samaritan. Help people with your jumper cables. And when you need a jump, you’ll be prepared.

These poor guys were stuck hundreds of miles from home. They didn’t have the proper tool. They had to not only find someone to help them, but also someone who had jumper cables.

Don’t leave yourself unprepared. Have the tools you need. And jumper cables! from

Embrace your tools

It’s exciting to work with people who see technology as a tool to do great work. It’s exciting to see them embrace a new tool for what it can do. For what they can do that before was impossible. It’s exhilarating to be a part of that excitement.

So often I see people nitpicking software for what it can’t do. You didn’t use the right tool. That’s a bad solution. This and this and these are all better.

You know what? Having a tool for the job and using that tool to do a great job is all you need. Use the tools you have. Stop pining for a slightly better version of what you have.

Stop criticizing the tool for what it can’t do. Do great work with the tools you have. They can be bent and molded in surprising ways.

Your meeting platform can be turned u to a video teleconference system. A previously inaccessible event can be made available to the public. No longer would it require air travel and interrupting your life.

We can bring the events of an auditorium in Washington DC to people around the country. And that is magical.

It is so easy to get caught up in the debate about tools. But that’s a losing play. It doesn’t matter what tools you have. It matters what you do with the tools you have. And if you can make something great then do it!

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