Privacy begins at home

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Last week when I was in the Netherlands (See “Putting the ‘Global’ in SMUG”) I had the opportunity on Wednesday to help lead a couple of master classes on Web 2.0 for health care communicators from UMC Radboud, one of six academic medical centers in the Netherlands, in Nijmegen.

I often like to demonstrate Skype and its videoconferencing capabilities (and the fact that it’s FREE) in my presentations. It’s one thing to say, “Skype is like the video phone in The Jetsons.” That gets heads nodding. But it’s entirely different to show just how easy and cool it is. So I have sometimes Skyped with my daughter Rachel and granddaughter Evelyn, and also have done videoconferences with Darrin Nelson (a Mayo patient from Rochester, NY who shared his story about robotic heart surgery here, here, here and here on Sharing Mayo Clinic.) In those cases I had sent messages on Facebook (for Rachel) or Twitter (for Darrin) to arrange the times for our conversations and to ensure that they would be available.

Our Wednesday morning master class in Nijmegen went off flawlessly, as @JohnSharp and @CiscogIII and I tag-teamed as teachers, but in the afternoon they had to head back to Amsterdam, so I was on my own (along with my host, Lucien Engelen.)

I was doing fine until I got to the reference in my slides to Skype, and then I got what I thought was a great idea: I went to Skype and saw that my lovely wife, Lisa, was on-line.

So (on the spur of the moment, not to mention a classic case of y-chromosome poisoning), I decided to just “surprise” Lisa with a Skype call without advance warning. I’ll let the Facebook conversation she started tell the rest (click to enlarge):






Lesson Learned: Privacy isn’t just something to be concerned about from a HIPAA perspective. It begins at home.

And a special note of thanks to Lucien for providing his own peace offering (although he personally had done nothing to offend), in the form of this beautiful bouquet of roses, pictured below next to my now fully showered bride of nearly 25 years.

Picture 11

Meet George Jetson!

The Jetsons was one of my favorite non-Looney Tunes cartoons from my youth. Flying cars and the 15-hour workweek were highlights for me of the Hanna-Barbera vision of the world of 2062.

Obviously those predictions haven’t come to fruition yet (at least for me), but one that has become reality in a big way is the video phone. Remember how George used to talk to Jane face-to-face from his office through a video screen? And how Mr. Spacely would always seem to appear on the video screen at inopportune times?

My wife Lisa and I played Jetsons a couple of nights ago with our daughter, Rachel, and granddaughter, Evelyn. They live about 500 miles away from us, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Here was their first experience with Skype:


In the 1960s — when many long-distance phone calls were operator assisted and the per-minute charges for a simple voice call were exorbitant and only the big three television networks and their affiliates had video cameras — the idea of being able to talk by video across the miles was as outlandish as levitating cars seem to us today.

Which brings me back to the subject of my post about whether Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are free. If you had told anyone in 1962 (when The Jetsons ran in prime time), that they would be able to do what Lisa, Rachel, Evie and I did Tuesday night (along with our cat, Zeke), they would have shaken their heads in disbelief. 

Most probably would have doubted it even in 1992, or would have thought the cost of such a service would be exorbitant. Remember AOL, Prodigy and similar services that set time limits on Web access?

But like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, Skype is FREE! Yes, you need a computer with a webcam to take advantage of it (and a MacBook with built-in iSight is a great choice), but for computer-to-computer voice calls or videoconferencing, there are no charges with Skype. 

If you’re reading this, you already have access to a computer. You may even have a webcam, but if not you can get one for about the cost of a cheap DVD player (another technology that’s becoming ridiculously inexpensive.)

Here is the key question to ask yourself (and doubters in your organization): If our competitors are paying nothing to communicate more effectively with their customers (and ours) by using this technology with the staff they already have, wouldn’t our failure to take advantage of these tools be a significant competitive disadvantage for us?

For some great reading on why all these tools are being made available for FREE, check out this article in Wired by Chris Anderson. It’s also the subject of his new book, to be released next month. I’ll be reviewing it here soon after it comes out.

Meanwhile, if you want to give Skype a try, download it and I would be happy to be your first videoconference conversation partner. Just tweet me (@LeeAase) and be sure you’re following me on Twitter, and we can connect via direct message to set a time for a face-to-face talk on Skype.