Usually I spend Tuesdays working on homework, and by the time the afternoon rolls around, I find inspiration for my blog. Today, however, I spent the morning on a conference call, my first one in an academic setting. I was reminded that no matter how whiz-bang fantastic a new technology is, the success or failure of its implementation/use is highly dependent on non-technological stuff, namely the environment and behavior of human beings. As an example, the conference call I participated took place in a room that had a large, donut-shaped table about a dozen feet across. The tabletop was made of finished wood, and looked great, but the hole in the middle prevented the leaders from putting the conference phone in the middle, where it would do the most good. Of the ten people present, only a few projected their voices well enough to be heard from where they sat. The rest had to take turns moving to the head of the table, and even then some were so naturally soft-spoken that remote participants had a hard time making out their words. One of the remote participants, obviously using a handset instead of a speakerphone, kept blowing her nose at very inopportune times, interrupting or completely obscuring important content. Finally, another participant tried to dial in using a cell phone, and for several minutes everything she said had an echo. I don’t know how others felt, but these distractions both tried my patience, and reminded me of the fragility of any multi-person endeavor, no matter how carefully planned and pre-tested.