Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Working from home: How to get remote work right

Microsoft Teams and Zoom users have a new feature that may stun you into silence

The timing of this new creation is perfect. The effect will surely be palpable.

screen-shot-2021-05-13-at-2-18-07-pm.png

Wait for it. The man top-left is about to hijack the whole thing.

Screenshot by ZDNet

It's not often I see a new idea that makes me think: "Oh, this is glorious."

Yet I've just been lifted to semi-rapture by a new product, one that will improve countless working lives.

Please let me ask you: How would you like to improve your Microsoft Teams or Zoom meeting?

Other than never to have a Microsoft Teams or Zoom meeting ever again? (A sentiment shared by many important business figures.)

Well, this idea may well be the next best thing. It's, well, let me quote the company's PR person, "the first feature for all video call platforms that lets users add written and visual content live onto the screen during a video call."

I read this and grunted. Then I realized it was a grunting of startling possibilities.

You see, I looked at the video of this feature in action -- brought to you by its creators at video communications software company Prezi, and could barely control my faculties.

For here is a Zoom-like meeting where, when one person is speaking, other participants are writing things on their portion of the screen.

The ramifications are surely life-changing.

You can offer soundless hurrahs and hosannas -- far more personal than a mere thumbs-up -- making the person speaking feel they're truly inspirational. You don't have to mean it, of course, but goodness it could get you that raise more quickly.

You could also offer sly witticisms such as "Oh, I'm not sure about that sweater." Or "What time did you get home last night?" Or "Could you keep the next section to 33 seconds? Thanks."

You could write: "My front teeth are sore," just to see how others will react.

You could try offering irrelevant, but existentially significant questions such as: "Do llamas think they're superior to alpacas?"

But this could also have a darker and more delicious aspect.

It could be the perfect way for you to sabotage every meeting you attend -- until you get fired, of course.

Your boss is speaking and you innocently type: "Do you realize how boring you are?"

Your least favorite project manager is telling everyone what to do and you type: "Oh, please. Just listen to yourself, you self-important windbag."

And, as someone stops to ask why you typed such an uncharitable collection of words, you either explain that you meant to type it to your friend in Wisconsin or you type: "It wasn't me. It was my cat Fluffles."

At this point I stopped. I asked the Prezi Video people whether the meeting organizer controls the ability of participants to caption freely.

There was uplift in the company's reply: "Anyone who has downloaded the latest version of Prezi Video has access to this feature, including the meeting organizer and audience."

And so my thoughts headed to a figurative Mars.

I imagined people captioning each other on the screen while the meeting is going on. It could be the perfect vehicle for mass corporate insurrection, live and unedited.

Yes, I know I'm dreaming a little, but part of Zoom fatigue involves sitting in pained silence for hours while staring into a screen.

At least this fine feature gives you something to create, while the meeting turns from minutes into hours.