My wife, Laurel, has become a quasi-expert in how to use Zoom for online meetings. She's paid for an account that allows for unlimited meeting time, rather than the 40 minute limitation on the basic free plan.
I've taken part in one of the three meetings Laurel has hosted. Zoom works well, though since people are new to it, typically the first part of the meeting is filled with "can you hear me?," "unmute yourself," and other sorts of how does this work talk.
And since we live in a rural'ish area with crappy DSL, our broadband connection is slow, which creates problems with Zoom. Connecting an ethernet cable directly to my wife's computer from the Century Link wi-fi device helped somewhat.
I've never been much concerned about online privacy. I use my laptop a lot. I enjoy being on Facebook and Twitter. I accept that when I buy something, or search for an item on Google, online ads will follow me around the internet like a puppy sniffing dog treats in my pocket.
Plus, I've stopped using an ad blocker. In part this was because an increasing number of web sites that I liked to visit would present me with a message along the lines of, "We notice you're using an ad blocker. Please turn this off. Online ads enable us to keep on doing what we're doing."
But Laurel has found that some of the people in the groups she's arranged Zoom meetings for are hyper-sensitive about not having any ads directed at them, or sharing personal information with Zoom.
My attitude is that this is the price we pay for a quality online experience. Yes, I was an early user of the internet and fondly remember when everything was free. Even now, many people still believe that they shouldn't have to pay anything to surf the web.
That didn't make sense to me before the COVID-19 era, and it makes even less sense to me now. We've all become much more dependent on the online world, since most states (like mine, Oregon) have stay-at-home orders and closures of schools, restaurants, bars, and other non-essential businesses.
So a main way we're staying connected to those who aren't our live-in family is the big wide world of the internet.
Sure, phoning is fine, but I really enjoyed it when my daughter and I did the FaceTime thing on our iPhones a few days ago. Being able to see how they've set up their Orange County home for my granddaughter's online learning, plus how cute their fairly new dog has become, was great.
Nothing online is free. It costs either time or money (usually both) to offer content or a service. I've been blogging for seventeen years, so I know how much work it takes to maintain my three blogs.
I've never had ads on them, but that's because my online writing is a labor of love, not of money. Most web sites, including Zoom, have to bring in money one way or another. That's a fact of life. If we want to enjoy the benefits a web site offers, we have to be willing to pay one way or another -- either directly, or by having ads presented to us.
This is no different than the two newspapers delivered to our box every morning. My wife and I pay for a print subscription to the Salem Statesman Journal and the Portland Oregonian. There also are ads in the newspapers, which I mostly ignore. I understand, though, that without those ads, there wouldn't be a newspaper.
So it makes no sense when people are adamant about not having ads shown to them online. That's akin to getting upset because their daily newspaper or weekly magazine contains ads even though they've paid for a subscription.
Yes, I get why having online ads track you around the internet can be annoying. I used to think this was an invasion of my privacy. With additional thought, though, I realized it is no big deal. Where's the harm in having Facebook present me with ads for shoes after I just bought a pair of Allbirds online? (great wool shoes, by the way; I just got another pair).
I'm grateful to companies like Zoom for the services they're providing during the coronavirus crisis.
It costs money to do that. If they want to present ads to me while I'm using their service, great. Thus my advice is, let's turn off our ad blockers and accept that seeing some advertisements is the price we need to pay for keeping those companies in business.